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The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers

By Staff / April 15, 1998


Hardcover Fiction

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1. PANDORA, by Anne Rice, Alfred A. Knopf, $19.95

This continuation of the vampire chronicles has some exemplary writing, but ultimately is uneven and hurried. The autobiography by a Roman noblewoman brought to the dark side is long on self-conscious description but short on story. Less gore, and more about her human choices and then observations as an immortal, would have made a better story.

By Terri Theiss

2. THE STREET LAWYER, by John Grisham, Doubleday, $27.95

John Grisham has done it again. This novel lends itself so well to visual images we can certainly expect to see it on the big screen. It all begins when a homeless person walks into a prestigious D.C. law office and threatens to blow himself up. Readers can almost smell the unwashed aroma of life on the streets. The hero, a high-powered attorney in the same law firm, takes up the cause for the homeless, eventually going up against his old employer. By Carol Hartman

3. THE LONG ROAD HOME, by Danielle Steel, Delacorte Press, $25.95

Prepare for a tedious message of woman as victim. Abused by wealthy and loveless parents, young Gabriella Harrison finds herself abandoned at a convent when her parents' marriage falls apart. Years pass and a scandalous affair with a priest forces her out of the cloister. Later, an abusive boyfriend nearly kills her. If you must, save this book for the beach. The distraction of surf and sand will be a welcome relief. By Kendra Nordin

4. COLD MOUNTAIN, by Charles Frazier, Atlantic Monthly Press, $24

The American Civil War is the shattering force that disrupts and rearranges the lives of the characters in this richly rewarding first novel. Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier, turns his back on a war that has robbed him of any illusions about military glory. He sets off to find his way home to Ada, the woman he hoped to marry. Frazier's writing style is aptly reminiscent of the mid-19th century but not distractingly antiquated. By Merle Rubin

5. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, by Arthur Golden, Alfred A. Knopf, $25

Golden's debut novel unlocks the world of a traditional geisha. Told through the voice of Sayuri, a young girl sold into the near-slavery of a geisha house in the early 1930s, the story offers a historically enlightening glimpse of this age-old element of Japanese culture. Tracing Sayuri's emergence from lowly maid to geisha of renown, Golden shapes solid but predictable characters. Sexual situations are handled tastefully. By Kristina Lanier

6. PARADISE, by Toni Morrison, Alfred A. Knopf, $25

In her first novel since winning a Nobel Prize, Morrison tells the story of a remote, all-black town in Oklahoma founded in 1949 as a "paradise" of stability and safety. But the effects of racism on relationships among blacks warps values and stirs paranoia, leading to the grisly murder in 1976 of women in a commune on the outskirts of town - women believed responsible for the town's decay. The irony in the book's title finds expression in the complications of returning to paradise through a history of strife. By Ron Charles

7. TOXIN, by Robin Cook, Putnam, $24.95

If you had concerns about just how careful restaurants are in preparing beef, then this book is your worst nightmare. It's a gruesome tale of the ecoli virus. A heart surgeon's teenage daughter contracts the disease through eating a contaminated burger. The doctor, on many levels a distasteful and obnoxious human being, undertakes to discover who is responsible for the tainted meat his daughter consumed. The characters are shallow and the medical situations graphic. By Janet Moller

8. HOMEPORT, by Nora Roberts, Putnam, $23.95

After a couple of recent misses, the romance-suspense author has a hit in her latest book. Forgeries and family histories entangle a beautiful Renaissance art expert and a handsome thief who must work together to expose a somewhat-predictable killer. The writing is quite enjoyable, though readers should be prepared for "masterpiece theatre" type-details of murders and several steamy romance passages. By Terri Theiss

9. BLOOD WORK, by Michael Connelly, Little Brown & Co. $23.95

Terry McCaleb once hunted serial killers as an FBI profiler. Now he's in early retirement after a heart transplant. When the sister of the murdered woman whose heart he received comes to him to ask for help, it starts him on a hunt for a truly terrifying killer. "Blood Work" is a convincing, hard-to-put-down thriller that relies on brain, not brawn, to drive its plot forward. There are several medical scenes, as well as some rough language and graphic depictions of crime. By Tom Regan

10. SUDDEN MISCHIEF, by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, $22.95