David Koeppel
December 31, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

At the beginning of the collection Twisted, author Jeffery Deaver promises that ”with a thirty-page short story, all bets are off,” and that unlike most of his novels, good will not necessarily triumph over evil. He delivers on that promise with a highly entertaining, often unnerving series of psychological thrillers. Delving into the most depraved recesses of human nature with a motley assortment of murderously adulterous spouses, psycho stalkers, and serial killers, Deaver is also able to wring true terror from the seemingly mundane (”Gone Fishing” and ”Triangle”). There are occasional misses, however: ”All the World’s a Stage,” set in Elizabethan England, is more convoluted than confounding, and while it’s a treat to see the return of criminologist Lincoln Rhyme, ”The Christmas Present” isn’t nearly as welcome a gift as its hero.

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