Deaver detours
into short form

By Jeffery Deaver
(Simon & Schuster, 383 pp., $24.95)

Buy at Amazon

Reviewed by John Orr
December 2003

Jeffery Deaver's ''The Vanished Man'' was one of the best novels I read in 2003, but one of my colleagues was disappointed by it. ''I like it when Deaver fucks with me, ya know?'' he said. ''And he didn't fuck with me enough in this one.''

Perhaps my fussy friend will be happier with ''Twisted,'' a collection of Deaver short stories that is, indeed, twisted.

In his foreword to this collection, Deaver says he adheres to conventions in his novels: ''Though I love to make evil appear to be good (and vice versa) and to dangle the potential for disaster before my readers, nonetheless, in the end, good is good and bad is bad, and good more or less prevails. Authors have a contract with their readers and I think too much of mine to have them invest their time, money and emotions in a full-length novel, only to leave them disappointed by a grim, cynical ending.

''With a 30-page short story, however, all bets are off.''

His novels are always full of twists and turns -- no other writer I've seen even comes close to confounding expectations as skillfully as does Deaver -- and in this collection, all of the stories have some kind of twist, at least at the end; and in a few, several twists. Indeed, all bets are off.

There are many domestic dispute tales, spousal homicides and so forth, but in none of them can the reader be sure who is plotting, abetting or murdering until the last word. There are many, many surprises. True to form, one of the very best of the stories features Deaver's cleverest creation, the wheelchair-bound and brilliant criminologist Lincoln Rhyme.

A very few of the tales are a little ham-handed by Deaver standards. Perhaps some of his earlier works, non-quite salvageable even by Deaver, who is a painstaking rewriter.

But most of them are involving and have such clever twists that they will bring a laugh from readers who really like it when Deaver fucks with them.