NIGHTS OF RAIN AND STARS

Maeve Binchy, Author . Dutton $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-94754-7

Four strangers cross paths in a tiny Greek seaside village in this thin but engaging new novel by bestselling Binchy (Quentins ; Circle of Friends ). When tragedy strikes the smalltown of Aghia Anna in the form of a devastating fire on a tourist pleasure boat—24 people are killed—elderly barkeeper Andreas and craft-shop owner Vonni find themselves host to a random assortment of travelers who watch the conflagration from Andreas's taverna. There is Elsa, the German beauty who is trying to flee from love; David, the quiet young Englishman whose demanding father wants him to go into the family business; Thomas, the American professor who struggles to share his son with his ex-wife's new husband; and Fiona, the Irish nurse who follows her abusive boyfriend despite the warnings of her friends and family. As these strangers become friends, the mysterious Vonni, an Irish woman whose Greek is fluent and whose respected position in town is unquestioned, explores her own memories of heartache, as does Andreas. Unwilling to see their new friends repeat their mistakes, Andreas and Vonni set out to influence the hearts of this motley bunch of foreigners before they leave the village. The setup is flimsy, and the bonds the characters develop are too slender to provide much emotional texture, but Binchy's fans will enjoy this summery page-turner. Agent, Christine Green. (Sept.)

Forecast: Fans may feel Binchy strays too far from her rich home turf of Ireland, but most won't begrudge her the vacation.

Reviewed on: 07/19/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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