THE MONITOR'S GUIDE TO BESTSELLERS

HARDCOVER FICTION

b = Favorable review

n = Unfavorable review

M = Mixed review

- = No review noted

The Christian Science Monitor; The new York Times; Kirkus Review of Books; Los Angeles Times; Selected reviews*

1) -

1

MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU, by Mary Higgins Clark, Simon & Schuster, $24

The latest from Mary Higgins Clark is an eminently readable mystery, with an intelligent voice and an eye for detail. The protagonist is a gutsy photographer who must solve the tragic murder of her stepmother and sudden deaths of two of her stepmother's friends. Set in Newport, R.I., the action concerns romance and riches, both hidden and displayed. The ending is a bit predictable but does not detract from a stylish read. By Terri Theiss

b

-

-

-

-

2) 1

11

PRIMARY colors, by Anonymous, Random House, $24

Scratch the surface of this novel about Southern governor Jack Stanton's campaign for president and you'll find Bill Clinton. And wife, Hillary. And a host of other political types who are cleverly fictionalized by the book's mysterious author (who denies that the characters and events are real). Deducing who's who and following the ins and outs of primaries make this an interesting read, although not an entirely satisfying one as subplots and lengthiness weigh it down. By Kim Campbell

M

b

b

M

b

WP

3) 4

3

FIRST KING OF SHANNARA, by Terry Brooks, Ballantine, $23.50

In this typical plot of good versus evil, numerous unusual characters with supernatural abilities confront one another in a power struggle. Overly descriptive passages tend to weigh down the plot, but unexpected twists throughout heighten interest. Readers who enjoy fantasy adventures will find this an intriguing story, though not too profound. Themes such as the search for identity, nonconformity, and how power corrupts are traced throughout. A number of scenes are violent. By Carolee Aker

M

-

-

-

M

DD

4) 3

110

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

-

5) 2

5

IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ENEMY, by Elizabeth George, Bantam, $23.95

Editor Dennis Luxford, London's "king of sleaze," is far more used to causing scandal than being at the heart of one. But when his illegitimate daughter is kidnapped, he must run a front-page story publicly acknowledging her. Her mother, a politician who aims to be the next Margaret Thatcher, won't hear of it. Rather than risk publicity by calling the cops, they call in forensic scientist Simon St. James to crack the case. George has a winner in this tale of selfishness and tabloid intrigue. By Yvonne Zipp

b

-

-

-

b

AJ

6) 5

3

SPRING COLLECTION, by Judith Krantz, Crown, $24

This popcorn fiction about fashion modeling and family secrets is entertaining but not as good as Judith Krantz's previous work. While the plot moves right along and the romantic escapades are frequent, the characters are not as memorable as those from novels past. As with any of her books, sexual activity - both heterosexual and homosexual - is often detailed. And an unpleasant male character (who gets his just rewards) provides a bit too much sleaze. By Terri Theiss

M

n

-

n

n

CH

7) 7

30

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

n

OC

8) 10

6

AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS, by E. Lynn Harris, Doubleday, $23.95

This author's third novel, set against the world of professional football, deals with a multiplicity of personal and social issues through its African-American characters. The storytelling and characters are engaging, and its central message is one of the power of faith during crises, but the material is not for everyone. Personal sexual relationships both heterosexual and homosexual are featured, as are issues such as violence against women and alcoholism. By Terri Theiss

M

M

n

-

b

SFC

9) 9

11

ABSOLUTE POWER, by David Baldacci, Warner, $22.95

When the trophy wife of a DC businessman is murdered after a graphic bout of rough sex, the only witness is a burglar hiding in her bedroom, and only he knows that the man behind the murder is her lover, the president of the United States. Baldacci starts off with an intriguing plot and interesting characters, but along the way the story bogs down. In the end, the resolution is predictable and the characters become cliched.

By Marianne Le Pelley

n

-

n

-

b

USA

10) 8

4

MONTANA SKY, by Nora Roberts, Putnam, $23.95

This latest novel from the popular romance writer is a humorous look at female relationships as well as the usual boy-girl material. Three grown stepsisters, who have never met, inherit notorious rancher Jack Mercy's millions if they agree to live together on his ranch for one year. Readers should be prepared, however, for rough language, a fair amount of sexual content, and some graphic violence on the part of a murderer who must be brought to justice by book's end. By Terri Theiss

b

-

-

-

b

CT

11) 6

7

GUILTY AS SIN, by Tami Hoag, Bantam, $21.95

A wicked whodunit essentially about an attorney from a small county in Minnesota who takes on the prosecution of a popular local professor, accused of kidnapping his neighbor's eight-year-old son. She must delicately negotiate her way through national media, her ex-lover who is the attorney for the defense, an outraged community, and a handsome true-crime novelist to whom she finds herself attracted. Narrative subtly deals with deception, murder, and exploitation of children. By Marianne Le Pelley

b

-

M

-

b

AJ

12) -

3

THE RETURN, by William Shatner, Pocket, $22

"Legends never die ..." is the apt phrase gracing the cover of Star Trek hero William Shatner's latest. It begins with James T. Kirk dying, though he is quickly resurrected by evil aliens, who convince him of his next mission - to kill another legend, Captain Picard. Spock and others begin tracking and coming to grips with a Kirk gone awry. The book's many visual descriptions make it an obvious screenplay in the making - a sequel to "Generations" - but it's an entertaining story anyway. By Abe T. McLaughlin

M

-

-

-

-

13) 11

6

MCNALLY'S PUZZLE, by Lawrence Sanders, Putnam, $24.95

Archy McNally is back in his sixth caper, a murder-filled romp through Florida's Gold Coast. McNally is the creation of master storyteller, Lawrence Sanders. His fans won't be disappointed, although this latest effort lacks the punch of the first few episodes in McNally's career. As expected, the McNally's live-in chefs prepare sumptuous meals. Readers should be warned, however, that profanity, sexual situations, and violent passages tend to overshadow Sanders's storytelling prowess. By Tom Regan

M

n

-

-

n

OS

14) 12

11

THAT CAMDEN SUMMER, by LaVyrle Spencer, Putnam, $23.95

"That Camden Summer" is an enjoyable second-chance romance novel set in 1916 with a feminist point of view. Rebecca Jewett makes the hard decision to divorce her philandering husband and raise her three girls alone. Her forthrightness and courage make for great dialogue, but more character complexity throughout, "the cast," would aid the book's believability. Kudos for laughter, warmth, and strength during some trying experiences, including personal assault. By Terri Theiss

b

-

M

-

b

CT

15) -

1

PENTACOST ALLEY, by Anne Perry, Fawcett Columbine, $22.95

Best-selling author Anne Perry sends her faithful detectives, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt on the hunt for the man responsible for a bizarre murder, and all evidence points directly to the son of London's most powerful and dangerous man. London socialites in the 1890s lived a glamorous life and wanted no connection to the prostitutes of Pentecost Alley, but twists in the plot get many involved. This is an interesting look at Victorian London and a well-written, captivating mystery. By Denise Dwinnells

b

-

-

-

b

CT

BESTSELLER RANKING FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, APRIL 15, 1996

*Wash. Post; Dayton Daily News; Atlanta Journal Constitution; Calgary Herald; Orange County Register; S.F. Chronicle; USA Today; Chicago Tribune; Orlando Sentinel

MONITOR'S PICK: CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD: TWO CENTURIES OF PRAYERS BY AFRICAN AMERICANS, by James Melvin Washington, HarperCollins, $20 (cloth) $13 (paper)

THAT James Melvin Washington did not want to publish this anthology of African-American prayers is part of the reason you will want to read it. He so understands the intimacy of spiritual experiences that he resisted presenting these selections to a larger public. Washington explains his hesitation in the introduction, saying that public cynicism can subject "genuine spiritual struggles to ridicule, dismissing them as superstitions and escapist...."

But Washington overcame his hesitation and produced an anthology of great feeling and texture. We hear voices and tones and phrases we have heard before - the rhetoric of prayer, one might call it. But in and around those familiar devices flows the most startlingly fresh and moving spirit of desire and humility.

Here is a slave woman in 1816, who asks that God bless her master and "keep me from wishing him bad - though he whips me and beats me sore." Here is James Baldwin in "Go Tell It on the Mountain:" "Her mother had taught her that the way to pray was ... to come boldly, and yet more humbly than a little child, before the Giver of all good things." Here are verse and prose, folk English and high oratory, and a growing realization that if God is good, slavery must be wrong and must fall. One cannot read this book without being struck by the nobility and grace of a people so abused. It is a triumph - as are the prayers themselves.

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