Eleven short stories from the 70's and 80's, featuring--like much of Highsmith's recent fiction--morbid obsessions, suicidal urges, and considerable nastiness. Though no less heavy-handed than the other entries here, "The Button" nonethe. less stands out for its clarity and its oddly sympathetic protagonist: a mild-mannered accountant, father of a mongoloid child, who murders a total stranger out of sheer rage at the world--and finds sustenance thereafter in the memory of this "revenge." Elsewhere, the creepiness is less effective. "The Stuff of Madness" strains too hard for the macabre: a miserably married man--long ago forced to give up his mistress--commits suicide in his wife's garden of stuffed cats and dogs (deceased household pets), his head in the lap of a mistress-effigy. Three stories feature lonely women in stages of delusion: one is fixated on writers of favorite books; one comes to prefer "fantasy dates" to real ones; one, a widowed seamstress, is gently led into suicide by a deep-voiced, two-feethigh apparition. And other pieces--about celebrity, commercialism, intimations of mortality, and sexual impotence (brought on by an inferiority complex involving "efficiency")--are intriguing at first, but ultimately murky and unsatisfying. As in some other Highsmith work, unconvincing American settings and characters add to the artificiality of several stories in this new collection. In any case: a moderately welcome volume for devoted Highsmith fans, but with little to interest those who've found her recent work disappointing.