Not many novelists have the juice to publish second volumes of their collected stories. Deaver not only carries the weight to do so but is light enough on his feet to make the enterprise highly enjoyable.
Quoting his preface to Twisted (2003, not reviewed), Deaver compares a short story to “a sniper’s bullet. Fast and shocking.” The only entries among these 16 stories, 13 of them reprints from the past ten years, are the ones with multiple twists on the same question. Who’s the escaped sex killer in “Ninety-Eight Point Six”? What does the scrawled message “Luke 12:15” reveal about an impending prison break in “Chapter and Verse”? Why did James Kit Phelan commit the murder he’s about to be executed for in “Interrogation”? Is Jake Muller in “Surveillance” a burglar, or Ray Trotter in “A Dish Served Cold” a vengeful killer? Deaver’s mastery of tones can wobble—neither the romantic peril of “Afraid” nor the gangland patois of “A Nice Place to Visit” quite suits him—but within the fast, shocking limits of the suspense puzzle in which the innocent and the guilty are constantly changing places, he’s a magician who provides the most pleasure when you’re watching him most closely.
Nor will fans of Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme investigations (The Cold Moon, June 2006, etc.) go hungry: One of the three new stories here is a 50-page duel between Rhyme and a resourceful contract killer.