The Monitor's Guide to BESTSELLERS

MONITOR'S PICK

b=Favorable review; M=Mixed review; n=Unfavorable review; -=No review noted

The Christian Science Monitor; The New York Times; Kirkus Review of Books;

Los Angeles Times; Selected reviews*

1) 3

17

The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans, Delacorte Press, $23.95

The storyline is formulaic, cliche laden, and noticeably influenced by ''The Bridges of Madison County.'' It depicts a strong tight- lipped Montana rancher able to see into the ''soul'' of horses, and a British-cum-New York successful magazine editor who experiences a midlife crisis when her daughter-on-horseback collides with a semi-truck. The editor finds herself in an extramarital affair with the rancher. Parental guilt about putting career first emotionally tugs throughout this soap opera. By Jim Bencivenga

n

n

n

M

-

-

-

-

2) 2

15

THE LOST WORLD, by Michael Crichton, Knopf, $25.95

This is mostly a shameless reprise of ''Jurassic Park.'' Both T. Rex and the velociraptors are back, as bad as ever, chasing everyone and consuming all expendable characters. There is jungle, rain, lightning, and actual cliff hanging. And as usual, the author lectures during pauses in the action. He speculates on extinction. Dinosaurs died because they constantly developed, chancing dysfunction. The pace is relentless, and you never know just what will happen. By Ronald Preston

b

n

b

b

b

CA

3) 4

7

FIVE DAYS IN PARIS, by Danielle Steele, Delacorte Press, $15.95

This novella is an overall pleasant read, and an improvement over the author's previous bestseller. An American politician's lonely wife and a CEO who faces possible business ruin meet during a bomb scare at the Vendome. Interesting possibilities between them develop. The pace is uneven, and descriptions of Paris's charm and the pitfalls of celebrity become self-conscious. Better editing would help. More focus on the book's later action could have turned a nice story into an excellent one. By Terry Theiss

M

-

-

-

-

4) 5

4

SHOCK WAVE, by Clive Cussler, Simon & Schuster, $24

Dirk Pitt is back and as suave and daring as ever. This time he must race against both the clock and the elements to stop a diamond tycoon from plunging the world into economic and ecological disaster. It is standard adventure fare, with the obligatory bad guys but no shoot-em-up scenes, Cussler's usual attention to minute detail makes for a page-turning read, and it doesn't matter if this is the first time you've met Dirk Pitt or if you've followed him on all 13 adventures. By Marianne Le Pelley

b

-

M

-

-

b

SL

5) 1

10

THE CHRISTMAS BOX, by Richard Paul Evans, Simon & Schuster, $12.95

A glorious weep! ( A personal caveat: Sadness isn't really the prerequisite to happiness.) A Victorian attic reveals an ornate box containing sorrowful letters to a lost, little angel. Night music, wafting mysteriously from the box, draws Richard to discover its secret. Once emptied of its sorrowful burden, the Christmas box epitomizes the empty tomb that could not hold Jesus. The message is that the joys of family love can conquer a materialistic sense of life and Christmas. By Mari Murray

b

-

-

-

-

6) 7

11

The HUNDRED SECRET SENSES, by Amy Tan, Putnam, $23.95

Fans of Amy Tan will be on familiar territory with her latest, and they won't be disappointed. The narrator is a Chinese-American girl from San Francisco whose world takes a turn for the worse when an older half sister arrives from China. Kwan speaks little English and talks to ghosts - a constant source of embarrassment for Olivia. Years later, when she travels to China with Kwan and her estranged husband, Simon, Olivia confronts ghosts of her own and learns the meaning of family. By Suzanne MacLachlan

b

b

-

b

-

7) 15

2

THE WEB, by Jonathan Kellerman, Bantam, $23.95

A trip to a Pacific island paradise offers ample opportunity for psychologist-detective Alex Delaware to uncover murder and mayhem in this choppily written, convoluted thriller. Whodunit is less important than why in an intriguing, grisly plot that incorporates cannibalism, bizarre experiments, psychological torture, and a hint of incest. A six-inch-long tarantula named Emma proves the most likable character in a book where even the ''good guys'' may be murderers. By Yvonne Zipp

n

M

-

-

n

BH

8) 10

6

The final Judgment, by Richard North Patterson, Knopf, $25

Again Patterson has spun an intriguing whodunit filled with courtroom exchanges, investigations, and flashbacks. The story is complete with up-to-date references to the O.J. Simpson trial. The main character argues on behalf of the defendant, who may not have been read Miranda rights before talking. Also, the police investigative team may not have been as thorough as they claim. Sound familiar? Patterson's style is attention grabbing. Explicit sex and gruesome murders. By Janet C. Moller

M

-

M

-

b

DN

9) -

1

Intensity, by Dean Koontz, Knopf, $25

Chyna Shepherd's battle with Edgler Vess, the psychotic killing machine, and ultimately with herself, is a taut, nerve-tingling thriller, where the intensity of the action starts almost from P. 1 and continues to the end. The book's success rests in Koontz's ability to make his two main characters so compelling. As we learn more about their common roots in violence, their confrontation seems preordained, especially for Shepherd, who recognizes in Vess the evil that plagued her as a child. By Tom Regan

b

-

-

-

M

N

10) 13

3

HIDE AND SEEK, by James Patterson, Little, Brown, $23.95

This is a read-it-in-one-sitting kind of book. The fast-moving plot, which borrows more than a little from the O.J. Simpson trial, is simple: An internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter is accused, for the second time, of killing one of her husbands. The defense claims it was self-defense - a loving mother trying to protect herself and her family from a terrifying relationship. The prosecution says cold-blooded murder. It is sometimes lurid and always improbable and predictable. By Suzanne MacLachlan

M

-

-

-

n

CT

11) 14

2

THE JUDGE, by Steve Martini, Putnam, $23.95

Steve Martini hasn't bypassed a single element of the legal thriller in his latest courtroom drama: the sympathetic, brilliant defense attorney; his client, an unpopular judge charged with the solicitation and murder of a police trainee posing as a prostitute; the beautiful but flawed victim; the slick district attorney; corrupt policemen tampering with evidence. The story moves the reader swiftly but far too predictably through its paces. Be prepared for endless cliches and crude language. By Amelia Newcomb

M

-

b

-

b

T

12) 8

97

THE CELESTINE PROPHECY, by James Redfield, Warner, $17.95

Well-intended but poorly written, the plot is a cross between ''Indiana Jones'' and a self-help book. The hero is on a quest for a recently discovered Peruvian manuscript that details the progress of spirituality at the end of the 20th century. At different stages of the journey, he and his fellow searchers discover spiritual ''insights,'' nine in total. Rather than profound, the book is awash in cliches such as the need to ''become conscious of the coincidences in our lives.'' By Yvonne Zipp

n

-

-

n

-

13) 6

13

Silent Night, by Mary Higgins Clark, Simon & Schuster, $15

While an important part of the plot is a father recovering from cancer surgery, this little holiday heartwarmer is really about family and faith. When seven-year-old Brian chases down Fifth Avenue after the thief who unwittingly takes a St. Christopher medal meant for his father, along with his mother's wallet, he becomes a hostage in a prison break. A suspenseful turn of events makes it a compelling read, and its real appeal is how faith and love strengthen Brian and his family. By Terri Theiss

b

-

-

-

b

DN

14) 12

11

THE ISLAND OF THE DAY BEFORE, by Umberto Eco, Harcourt Brace, $25

Beautifully written and deftly translated by William Weaver, this work of fiction is a novel in the original sense of the term: a novelty, a new combination of elements. It opens with Roberto Della Griva, a young Italian of good family, shipwrecked somewhere in the South Pacific. His belief in a comprehensible universe is shattered by his exposure to the multiple, often contradictory interpretations of reality he encounters. Eco suggests that too many possible meanings add up to no meaning. By Merle Rubin

b

b

-

M

-

15) -

1

BEHIND THE LINES, by W.E.B. Griffin, Putnam, $23.95

This novel is based on the existence of US military guerilla operations in the Philippines during World War II. It is vintage Griffin. While detailing some violent combat, the action is character based. It skillfully weaves fictional heroes with real luminaries such as Douglas MacArthur, Chester Nimitz, and Frank Knox. Its best feature is a wonderful treatment of the male military ego. Often humorous, it does contain harsh, scatological language. Women play perfunctory roles. By Terri Theiss

M

-

-

-

-

THE RAILWAY MAN, by Eric Lomax, Norton, $22

'SOMETIME the hating has to stop.'' This is the final sentence of ''The Railway Man,'' by Eric Lomax. The preceding narrative is a detailed account, by a Scottish septuagenarian with a sharp memory, of his torture during World War II - and of his recent, surprising moves toward coming to terms, in a profoundly touching way, with decades of bitterness.

The author of this account of survival, unspeakable cruelty, and ultimately spiritual triumph is a Royal Signals officer attached to the 5th Regiment, Royal Artillery. He was among the thousands captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. Sent to work as an engineer in the lower reaches of the infamous Siam-Burma railway, he was one of six POWs held responsible by the Japanese for surreptitiously making and operating a radio, and, in his case, drawing a map. Lomax was subjected to pitiless thuggery and extreme torture followed by a squalid imprisonment he describes as ''the valley of the shadow of death.''

In 1993 he journeyed to Japan, met, and forgave his interrogator and torturer, Nagase Takashi. Lomax is the kind of hero who doesn't recognize that he is one. But his heroism shows itself as much in his journey of personal reconciliation and forgiveness as it did when he refused to confess to the ''hateful little interrogator'' he now calls, in his book, his ''blood-brother.'' He writes: ''I proved for myself that remembering is not enough, if it simply hardens hate.''

- Reviewed in the Aug. 9, 1995 Monitor.

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