Familiar English strengths--brevity, irony dark or droll--are solidly showcased in this above-average addition to the Creasey series (which has become a somewhat more reliable source than the Winter's Crimes annuals). Peter Lovesey turns a barber's monologue--""Curl Up and Dye""--into a neat revenge mini-drama. Antonia Fraser draws a bit of fresh mileage out of the wry spectacle (remember The Wrong Box?) of two proper oldsters--here a mutually loathing brother and sister--intent on doing each other in. Julian Symons does nicely with the tale of a cool, careful fellow commissioning his wife's murder. And the most traditional standout of all is a slice of charmingly old-fashioned detection from H.R.F. Keating. Pleasures of a more offbeat sort are provided in intense, claustrophobic psychodramas from Reginald Hill and Celia Fremlin: Hill's hero is a political prisoner plotting his escape from solitary confinement; Fremlin's is a student involved in a sensory-deprivation experiment-(conducted by his lover's husband!). And even the so-so entries--feeble twist-endings from Tony Wilmot and editor Harris, unconvincing psycho-studies from Ruth Rendell and George Sims, an outlandish Calder & Behrens melodrama from Michael Gilbert--are crisply readable. Overall, a classy, generous (16 in toto) assortment--some of it brand-new, some of it (like the Rendell) already familiar to US readers.