Tournier (The Ogre, The Four Wise Men) offers a few effectively creepy, pointed if farfetched tales in this uneven collection--which explores his fascination with perverse delights. A morbid, grisly interest in death emerges in ""Death and the Maiden""; sheer grotesquerie is celebrated in ""The Red Dwarf""; bodily mutilation is mused upon in ""Prikli""; and--most oddly--""Veronica's Shroud"" presents photography as a form of vivisection. Too often, however, instead of focusing in on a single kink, Tournier browses through multiple obsessions, producing stories that wander and weave unsatisfyingly: in ""The Woodcock,"" for instance, there is one digression after another while Tournier belabors the refined but hardly original erotic aspects of a man's helpless infidelities. And the best stories here are, in fact, the most straightforward, conventional dramatizations of Tournier's mythic preoccupations: ""The Lily of the Valley Rest Area"" reveals the epicureanism of two French long-haul truck drivers; and ""The Fetishist"" is the expected monologue about women's frilly underwear. Inventive, tingly curosities at best, then--but far too often Tournier seems like no more than a cerebral Joyce Carol Oates, lazily toying with dark urges and forbidden pleasures.