From Binchy, that well-beloved chronicler of things Irish (as in Circle of Friends and Firefly Summer), eight thematically connected stories, plus four thrown in presumably for good measure. The whole lot testifies to this writer's continued fascination with ordinary people and their tics of character, and how their lives never straighten out but grow more bittersweetly convoluted by the heartbeat. A lilac-colored bus is what draws eight Dubliners together for the four-hour trip to and from the village of Rathdoon on the weekends. And a varied collection of souls they are, including: Nancy Morris, the world's stingiest woman, who by the end of her sorry story does not change her ways a bit; a bank porter named Mikey, who despite his habit for telling off-color jokes badly, and for his generally hang-doggish self-presentation, finishes first when he steps into his errant elder brother's shoes (and marriage); Celia, a big, strapping girl who comes up with an ingenious way of convincing her perpetually potted mam that it's time to take herself off to a dry-out clinic; and Rupert, an earnest young fellow who tiptoes out of the closet when he at last determines to bring his male lover home to meet his stodgy, aging parents. Meanwhile, the Dublin Four stories that close the collection, about a very nervous country girl come to the city, a betrayed wife in pursuit of vengeance, and others, suffer from their lack of connecting fiber, and on occasion simply go on for too long. A big plate of mixed appetizers for Binchy fans, some of them nicely concentrated character studies, others predictable and flat.