Cooking for Picasso
By Camille Aubray. (Ballantine, 416 pages, $16.)

Perhaps the risk in writing fiction about a famous person is, ironically, lessened the more famous the target. Or perhaps Pablo Picasso’s mix of love and loathing toward women is too well documented to refute. In “Cooking for Picasso,” newly published in paperback, Camille Aubray portrays Picasso as both charismatic and exploitative, someone who revels in women fighting over him even as he disdains them, who comes perilously near to being cast as a rapist.

Ondine is a young woman in a seaside village on the French Riviera, hired to cook for a mysterious tenant renting a villa. That she eventually becomes his model for several portraits, and brief lover, is a given.

Fast-forward to modern times. When a painting promised to Ondine cannot be found, her American granddaughter, Celine, begins sleuthing, attending a cooking class on the Riviera as a cover. There she eventually becomes involved with the celebrity chef, a just barely cloaked Gordon Ramsay. Aubray’s clearly diligent research into the lives of artists makes “Cooking for Picasso” stay just on this side of providing a legitimately intriguing glimpse into the complicated artistry of Picasso, so much so that the soap opera that drives the narrative is palatable, much like Ondine’s cassoulet.

KIM ODE

 

The Silent Corner
By Dean Koontz. (Bantam, 464 pages, $28.)

 

The latest page-turner by Dean Koontz introduces readers to Jane Hawk, an FBI agent forced to go off the grid to investigate a string of suspicious suicides by prominent entrepreneurs, scientists and government officials, one of which struck far too close to home.

“The Silent Corner” is fast-paced, and Hawk is an inspired choice for a protagonist, by far the strongest part of a reliably entertaining book by the perennial bestselling author. And if some of the mind-control plot points seemed implausible, it was easy enough to gloss right over them with action, zippy dialogue and a winning character at the center of the book, part of a news series by Koontz.

COLLEEN KELLY