Foreign Affairs (A Stone Barrington Novel) by Stuart Woods
Stone’s flown the Atlantic at an hour’s notice, flirting en route with painter Hedy Kiesler, to vote in favor of opening a new Arrington Hotel in Rome. No sooner have the contracts been signed than trouble erupts. … and it’s clear that they’re coming from Leonardo Casselli, the patriarchal mobster who just hates being called Leo. … Apart from all the big names tossed in to cow Casselli, Woods mostly soft-pedals the usual gratuitous inflation and extraneous subplots, keeping things simple, straightforward, and pleasantly predictable.
Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving
A writer of great imagination, Irving can sell the reader on nearly any plot twist no matter how incredible—from a murderous statue of the Virgin Mary to a pride of anthropomorphized lionesses to a pair of (possibly) paranormal, (definitely) kinky bibliophiles. Under his spell, all of this seems perfectly and irresistibly plausible…This is a very fine work, as invigorating and satisfying as a cup of stovetop coffee. From the first page to the last, there is a goodness to this novel, a tenacious belief in love and the redemptive power of human connection, unfettered by institutions and conventions. This belief, combined with good old-fashioned storytelling, is surely why Irving is so often described as Dickensian. But John Irving is his own thing, and so is his new novel. Avenue of Mysteries is thoroughly modern, accessibly brainy, hilariously eccentric and beautifully human.
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
“Outstanding…King’s usual homespun style and storytelling swerves are fully evident, yet what’s really neat about Bad Dreams is the scribe’s introductions to each piece. Like little throwbacks to his 2000 manual/memoir On Writing, King tosses out bits of trivia and inspiration for each of his short form treats. A series of 150-mile drives in college led to Mile 81 and the most homicidal car since Christine. And a double whammy of trips to Applebee’s plus observing a road-rage incident in real time sparked his impressive imagination to create Batman and Robin Have an Altercation, an excellent piece pitting a father-and-son dynamic duo against Alzheimer’s and a strapping Texan. Short stories have a famous place in the King oeuvre, with the likes of The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption finding second lives on the big screen as Stand By Me and Shawshank Redemption. So it’s interesting to read how King likens himself to a midnight street vendor with these mini-tales and confesses they have given him ‘a soul-deep fear that I will be unable to bridge the gap between a great idea and the realization of that idea’s potential.’ Like all the greats, though, his ability to grip the reader’s mind, body and soul with his prose makes it all look easy.”
Depraved Heart: A Scarpetta Novel (Kay Scarpetta) by Patricia Cornwell
“Another gritty, world-weary tale of mayhem by masterful mysterian Cornwell . . . Terse and tangled, messy and body-fluidy, and altogether satisfying.”