Mario Puzo, Vito Corleone, even Marlon Brando have left us, but still The Godfather Returns and it's a fabulous return at that. Mark Winegardner was chosen to continue the saga with its huge cast of memorable, tough-talking characters, and he does it with Puzo-esque flare and bravado. Michael Corleone, Vito's smart, well-educated son has become the Godfather (a Puzo-invented title that's taken hold in our language and in our imaginations); he's trying to consolidate power and take the family into legitimate business. His brother Fredo, with his debilitating predilections and bad judgment, is a serious problem, but not nearly as dangerous as is Nick Geraci, a Corleone enforcer with big ideas and even bigger grudges. Tom Hagen, the Corleone consigliere, reappears, as does Johnny Fontane, Puzo's sleazy Sinatra-like Vegas singer and Pete Clemenza. There are also assorted bosses with Mob-minted names who mete out justice in their own special way and get as good as they give. It's a first-rate Godfather novel, with a first-rate audio performance by Joe Grifasi, and Mark Winegardner will certainly be hailed as capo di tutti sequel writers.

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