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My favourite genre of both fiction and non-fiction texts is crime; the more blood, police and custodial sentences the better so it may come as a surprise to you that I'd never heard of Jeffrey Deaver, despite trawling my way through at least 60 crime fiction and non-fiction books over the recent years, one of the most prolific writers of crime novels in recent times.
The particular book in question is Jeffrey Deaver's 'Twisted' which is a collaboration of sixteen short stories. I had never seen the appeal of short stories until I read this book I though there were somewhat childlike and hadn't read a short story since leaving primary school but this book came highly recommended from a friend.
The short stories are all crime based ranging from adulterous men to planned assassinations, so what makes these short stories so unique? The suspense, without a doubt. Just when you think you have the plot sussed out, NO... it's something completely unexpected, so unexpected, that on a few occasions I have had to re-read the story to make the penny drop and then it all made sense. The twists are not unbelievable or outrageously out of this world which makes them even more clever and unexpected.
With short stories it can be hard to develop a relationship with the characters but I think Deaver does this exceptionally well in such a short space of time. Some of the stories are written from the points of view of the criminal or the police so this, again, brings us closer to the characters. There are some complex relationships such as that between a captor and his victim but, written from the captor's point of view the shoe is on the other foot and we feel a sense of fear from the perpetrator's side that we would not otherwise feel.
In some of the short stories there are important messages conveyed that, if they are present, are always made clear at the end of the short story. Besides this, the main theme running through the book is, as I've said, crime. The crime's range in varying degrees' of seriousness and we see a whole range of different crimes which keeps your interest until the very end.
From my point of view, the stories were very easy to follow despite the different twists the short stories take. The only story I found hard to read was 'All the world's a stage' which was written in Shakespearian English but this was mainly due the use of old language that I found the tale hard to grasp and enjoy. Often, I found myself thinking 'surely that can't happen' and thinking I was going to be disappointed with the end of the stories but Deaver always turned this around and the endings were always satisfactory.
Overall, I found this book to be a great read. The diversity of the stories make this a very popular novel amongst its readers so if you do get the opportunity to read this book I would highly recommend it.
If asked to name my favourite author I would go for Jeffrey Deaver. He is an author who seldom lets you down and some of the twists in his novels are outstanding. So, when I discovered 'Twisted', a collection of short stories by him I was expecting a lot. To be honest I am not the biggest fan of short stories, especially open ended ones, so I was curious to see how he would condense his stories from around 500 pages to 30 odd.
There is a brilliant introduction from the author where he explains that the rules are different for short stories. Where in a novel he feels duty bound to deliver an upbeat ending, feeling that his reader has invested money and a lot of time into his story, and doesn't deserve to be let down by a depressing ending. However, with a short story this is not the case and the gloves are off!
There are 16 stories in this collection, which lasts over 400 pages. This filled me with hope, most short story collections struggle to break 250 pages so I was confident Deaver had let the story play out rather than being reigned in my a specific page number and pleasingly this turned out to be the case.
What Deaver does brilliantly, better than any author I have read, is he seems to know exactly what his reader is thinking. This allows him to deliver twists at precisely the right moment. On occasion I have laughed at how easily he has been able to manipulate my assumptions, judged almost to the line that I make them.
"Twisted" is his first short story collection. Not surprisingly a lot of the stories centre around crime. However, there is a huge variety of types of crime. You have the full range from a grocery store hold up to the theft of a £500,000 violin. Another thing the author does well is change perspective. In one story you will be told from the point of view of the thief, in another the cops, whilst yet another may be from a seemingly unconnected party. Of course in Jeffrey Deaver's world you can never take the characters at face value and there is even an appearance from William Shakespeare in one story.
The best story in the entire collection is the award winning opener 'Without Jonathon'. It is actually the best short story I have ever read. You have to read it to believe how much is crammed into so few pages. The twist is perfect. What I love about the twist in this one is that when you re-read the story (aware of the twist) then you read it completely differently, and become aware of all the clues that you missed on first reading. It is a great example of how to incorporate a twist that adds massively to the story, rather than being forced or unrealistic.
You would think that I would have learned to watch out for this later in the book but 'Triangle' used similar tricks on me. This was another very impressive example of how to use your preset conceptions against you.
Once you start working your way through the stories you will inevitably begin to try and guess the twists. Given that most stories contain less than five main characters you would think this would be an easy task. 'The Fall Guy' is a great example of this. In fact there are really only three central characters. But the story is so well written that I came up with about six different scenarios as to how it may play out. Jeffrey Deaver proved there were at least seven.
As with all collections the quality drops on the odd occasion. I didn't particularly enjoy the William Shakespeare story as it was written in the language of the time. I got the impression the author maybe enjoyed writing this one more than the reader would enjoy it. Also, some of the twists are a little more obvious than others. 'Beautiful' in particular had a fairly obvious outcome. Although, this may have been due to getting in tune with the author, more than it being a poor story. It was still very readable.
Deaver's best known character Lincoln Rhyme also makes an appearance in 'The Christmas Present'. Undoubtedly the appearance of Rhyme will be a strong selling point but I felt like this story needed a lot more to bring it up to anywhere near the standard of the novels the character appears in. It was nice to read about characters you will probably be familiar with but at the end of the day it wasn't a true Lincoln Rhyme story in my eyes, lots of other detectives would have been capable of doing what the usually peerless Rhyme does in this story.
Another story which was a little disappointing was 'Lesser-Included Offense' which relied on a legal technicality. Whilst I have no doubt these laws exist I felt it was an obscure law (certainly to a British reader) which meant that when the Twist was revealed I felt a little cheated as I
could not even have a guess at it.
These small disappointments are very much the exceptions. I found this to be an excellent collection. However, a further warning is its strength was actually a negative on occasion. I tend to find short stories work best when you only read one in a sitting. Otherwise you don't fully appreciate them as you are already on to fresh stories and characters before you've had a chance to fully appreciate the previous one. Due to these stories being so enjoyable I often read more than one but I would advise against this.
Recommended as an easy introduction into the world of Jeffrey Deaver.
Twisted is a book that contains a collection of short stories from the popular thriller writer Jeffery Deaver. I got it as part of a special Jeffrey Deaver pack from the Book People on offer, but it's also available seperately from most popular book shops - including from Amazon for £5.99.
When I first dived into this new read I didn't realise that I was reading a collection of short stories. I hadn't stopped to read the blurb before getting started! I was expecting a novel, but was pleasantly surprised by just how enjoyable I found reading a collection of shorts like this. It's made a really nice change to finish a complete story in one sitting at a time.
When I read a novel, I often find that I can't put the book down as I'm dying to find out what's going to happen next. That just doesn't happen with this book, though I admit I did find myself keep thinking 'just one more' lol. The format makes it ideal for someone commuting to work though, as it takes away that frustration you get when you have to stop reading in the middle of a good few chapters. These stories are all so short the most you've got to go is a page or two!
The quality of the short stories does vary I have to admit. There were several that I thought were really clever and entertaining, though there were also a significant number that I found predictable and poor quality. The beauty of reading short stories though, is that you can just hurry right on through without missing a lot if you're not terribly impressed.
One thing I do think a prospective buyer should really take on board is that this is definitely a solid thriller collection though. The names and faces change in every story, but ultimately the format remains consistent throughout. Each story sets a brief scene, introduces a hero and villain, then throws up a (sometimes) unexpected twist in the final few pages.
All in all, this is an enjoyable book that's packed with a selection of short thriller stories. There is nothing overly special in the way in which some of them are written I must admit, but there are some real surprises and chiller moments hidden in here as well. I won't go into details about any of the specific storylines involved as they're all far too short to summarise without giving half of the story away! A typical story in this book is just a handful of pages long.
I'd be annoyed if I'd paid £6 for this, but for a couple of quid this is a great 'bathroom' or 'train ride' book.
Short stories; hmmm, I'm really not sure where I stand on the thorny issue of short stories. They seem to be largely hit and miss in my mind, with a great many more misses than hits if truth be told. Don't get me wrong, when done well the short story is like no other written work in the world; the skill of engaging and drawing in the reader while building the story and the characters therein and moving the narrative to a satisfactory climax within thirty or so pages is nothing short of wordsmith wizardry, done well it offers an insight into an Authors thought process and skill, done badly and it leaves the reader deflated and feeling a little cheated. So it was that I found myself faced with a quandary wrapped up in a predicament - the next book on my 'to read' pile was a selection of sixteen short stories from one of my favourite Authors, Jeffery Deaver. My first impulse was to eschew it to the bottom of the pile all over again, but this felt a little mean spirited, after all I enjoyed Mr Deaver's long stories immensely, so thought I owed it to him, and myself, to read the collection of stories bought together within one book cover and entitled 'Twisted'.
One of my bugbears with short stories is that you don't really get to build a relationship with the characters properly; no sooner are you getting comfortable with the foibles of the key players than the story is over and you have to start the bonding and developement process afresh as the next story begins. Thankfully, on starting the first story, Deaver seems to have addressed this with short, punchy introductions of the lead players, giving us just enough information to lend the story some emotional meaning without swamping us with unnecessary details. In Without Jonathan we are taken on the journey of loss and bereavement, only for the rug to be pulled from beneath us as the story reaches its conclusion. Aha, so that's why it's called 'Twisted"; each of the stories has a clever, cunning, or just damn right nasty twist attached! At least now I'll know to look out for them and be able to spot them in the coming stories.
Who am I kidding? Master Deaver is a far more cunning wordsmith than that. In the second story, The Weekender we are privy to a botched robbery and hostage taking through the eyes of one of the raiders. I was convinced that this was going to be a tale of the supposed hostage actually being a part of the deal, in cahoots with the miscreants for a share of the ill gotten gains. How wrong I was! Not wishing to let the proverbial cat out of the bag, or indeed the cat burglar out of the crosshairs, but there is definitely no friendship or kinship to be found between hostage and hostage takers. For Services Rendered offers a delicious look at the patient/doctor relationship between a psychiatrist and a mentally unstable lady. A lady who seems to know an awful lot about her illness, pitting her wits against a psychiatrist who knows a great deal more about her situation than he is letting on. All culminating in the by now synonymous twist that turns your feeling and thoughts of the characters firmly on its head.
Beautiful is, in my mind, one of the best stories of this collection, and really had me scratching my head and wondering "why the hell did she do that?" as I turned the final page. It centres on Kari, a beautiful lady who has earned a great deal of money and fame as a model, but has had to deal with the unwanted attention having your face on magazine covers and in adverts can sometimes bring. Kari gets pretty fed up at being stalked by one particular oddball, and when he moves across America to be nearer her Kari takes matters into her own hands in a gruesome and extreme manner. A couple more stories laced heavy with revenge pass before we come to what I feel is the weakest story of the collection. All the World's a Stage is set in Shakespearian times, with the bard himself featuring heavily in the story. The whole feel and countenance just feels a little out of place amongst the other, modern stories. It also feels a little drawn out (quite a feat in a short story) and the use of olde English language just weighs the narrative down still further.
But that disappointment is very much the exception rather than the rule. On reading the sixteen stories I was caught out by the twists in at least a dozen of them, and that is with the prior knowledge that a twist is coming as the stories reach their conclusion. Twisted manages to excite, entertain and surprise in equal measure in sixteen bite sized snippets, a rare thing in stories nowadays, rarer still in short story form. Three hundred and eighty pages of suspense and surprise, which I award four stars out of five. Fans of Deaver will delight in seeing the master on top form, while those unfamiliar with his work will find these stories a great introduction to his work.
Although Jeffery Deaver is probably best known for his Lincoln Rhyme series, he is also a prolific writer of short stories. Twisted is a collection of those stories, the common theme to them all being (as the title of the anthology suggests) that they each feature a surprising twist at the end.
The delightful thing about Twisted is that all the stories are indeed very short - typically about 20-30 pages long. This gives the book a nice light feel to it. All of the stories are interesting, if instantly disposable, and, although none of them are likely to linger long in the mind, they provide a very entertaining diversion whilst you're reading them. Freed from being bogged down by unnecessary character development or labyrinthine plotting, the stories crack along at a great pace and, however implausible you might think some of the twists, they will always entertain.
There's nothing here that will detain you long - probably a couple of days worth of reading in total, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When I turned to this collection, I'd just come off the back of reading a very long, quite heavy book, so Twisted provided a light alternative - something I could just pick up and read without having to concentrate too much.
Because Twisted is a sequence of stand-alone tales, the reader can control how much they want to read. If you just want to read a couple of stories, or pick the book up for 10 minutes, you can do so without having to try and remember what has happened before, or risk having to stop reading at an inconvenient point in the plot. Each story will probably take 10-15 minutes to get through, so you can proceed at whatever pace suits you best.
Deaver has a writing style perfectly suited to short stories. Sometimes in his longer novels, he seems to get a little bogged down in detail, providing too much information and running the risk of boring the reader. With his short stories, his discipline is tighter and superfluous plot elements or characterisations are disposed of in favour of pacing and atmosphere. You can tell that Deaver is enjoying himself - it just shines out of his writing.
You can really see Deaver exercising his writing talent in this anthology. There is quite a variety of plots and ideas across the collection but also a variety of styles. Each story has a unique "voice" and he perfectly captures the characters and genres he is trying his hand at - whether mystery, crime or love story. His versatility and skills as a writer shines through more strongly in this book than in many of his full novels.
Of course, it's not all sunshine, and as with any anthology, the quality of the stories is a little variable. Many are very good, a few good, whilst just a handful are a little "so what?" There are a couple of times where the stories are so inconsequential and thin that you wonder why they have been included in this collection. However, in some ways, that's another strength of the book. Even if you don't like a story (and there were none that I truly hated), it doesn't take long to read, and you can move onto the next which will hopefully be more to your liking. Equally, just because you don't like it, someone else may love it - that's the nature of providing so many different stories representing so many different styles.
Similarly, some of the "twists" are a little bit dull. It's almost as if Deaver has committed himself to some sort of "trick ending" but can't always think of a satisfactory one. Sometimes, as a way out, he either comes up with something totally outrageous or totally mundane. Some are rather predictable too. Certainly, if you read the book in just a couple of sittings, you'll be able to spot certain patterns, both in terms of storylines (cheating partners is a common one, for example) and in terms of twists. As with anything, once you know a twist is coming, you start to look for it and there are only so many variations on the theme that Deaver can come up with.
Here, perhaps, lies the book's central weakness. The stories in this collection were designed to be read as one-offs, in isolation; a quick hit when you wanted a story without something too taxing. Collected together and read all at once, they can become a little samey and predictable. Certainly I enjoyed the stories at the start of the book more than the ones towards the end - not necessarily because they were better stories, but simply because at that point, I hadn't got into Deaver's mind, so the endings were a little bit more unexpected and more surprising. The deeper into the book you go, the more likely you are to get to the end of each story and find that it pans out exactly as you expected.
In fact, in some ways, there is quite a strong case to be made for not reading this as a book, but rather reading it in conjunction with something else. Read a "proper" novel and, for a bit of light relief, occasionally interspersing one or two of these stories. That way, it might retain its element of surprise better, as well as giving you a bit of entertaining light relief from your "heavier" reading matter.
Despite these concerns, though, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Twisted. In fact, I've just noticed on Amazon that there is a companion volume (imaginatively titled More Twisted), which I may well seek out and read.
Coronet Books, 2004
Available new from Amazon for £5.49 or second hand from 1p.
© Copyright SWSt 2008