The Monitor Guide to The Bestsellers

The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers

HARDCOVER NONFICTION

1. THE LION'S GAME, by Nelson DeMille, Warner, $26.95

(Last week 1, Weeks on list 2)

A Libyan terrorist has just killed a plane load of passengers, ducked out of the airport, and is wreaking havoc across America. John Corey, a street-tough former NYPD cop, is now working for the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force with Kate Mayfield, a snarly, brazened babe. As they track the ruthless killer, Corey and Mayfield strike up a steamy romance. DeMille is good at creating suspense, and his characters are well-developed, but his trite, smart-alecky dialogue clogs up the story with useless detail. (673 pp.)

By Lane Hartill

2. SICK PUPPY, by Carl Hiaasen, Alfred A. Knopf, $25

(Last week 7, Weeks on list 2)

A beloved college professor who is dying agrees to meet each Tuesday with a former student and discuss life and death. Mitch Albom, a well-known sportswriter, recorded 14 "classes" with his former teacher Morrie Schwartz. Religion, family, friends, and work are carefully considered. Schwartz (now deceased) was interviewed at home by Ted Koppel and appeared on "Nightline." What keeps this uplifting book from being maudlin is Albom's crisp writing and Schwartz's generous heart. (192 pp.)

By Anne Toevs

3. FALSE MEMORY, by Dean Koontz, Bantam Doubleday Dell, $26.95

(Last week 2, Weeks on list 3)

Martie Rhodes and her husband have tackled the mental disorders of their friends and family for years, but when Martie's mind seems the next victim of a psychotic frenzy, the couple is forced to find the truth behind these inner voices. Koontz guides readers through a forest of psychotic disorders with skill, providing well-crafted characters and the roots of what promises to be a thrilling adventure. As we approach the middle of our expedition, however, we begin to feel trapped in a long ride. (640 pp)

By Christy Ellington

4. SECRET HONOR, by W.E.B. Griffin, Putnam, $25.95

(Last week 0, Weeks on list 1)

In this third book of the "Honor Bound" historical-fiction series, readers will find a considerable amount of scene setting and background. The story describes the connection between Germany's Third Reich and Argentina during the World War II. Larger-than-life characters - both historical and fictional - tell how some Germans saw Hitler and plotted to destroy him while hoping not to destroy themselves. All but the most avid WWII buffs are likely to find this book burdened by excessive detail. (544 pp.)

By Jan Moller

5. THE CAT WHO ROBBED A BANK, by Lilian Jackson Braun, Putnam, $23.95

(Last week 0, Weeks on list 1)

The 23rd installmant of the popular "The Cat Who..." series features all the elements fans of Braun have come to expect: plenty of food and banter, courtesy of newsman James Qwilleran and pals; lots of clues, courtesy of Koko, the Siamese cat; and of course, a tidy, bloodless murder, courtesy of the killer. A jeweler comes up murdered after throwing one of his legendary high teas, baffling everyone but the Siamese. While the mystery is long on the doings of Moose County, Mich., it's short on plot. (256 pp.)

By Yvonne Zipp

6. TIMELINE, by Michael Crichton, Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95

(Last week 3, Weeks on list 8)

Using the tools of scientific possibilities, Crichton pens a fantasy of quantum technology, time travel, and 14th-century France. Once again, his characters are shallow, some even disposable. But it's the twists and turns in plot that keep the pages turning. An egotistic billionaire's plans to transport a team of historians go terribly wrong when they arrive in medieval France, smack in the middle of The Hundered Years War. While the capture-escape plot is overdone, the historical details are refreshing. (449 pp.)

By Suman Bandrapalli

7. ATLANTIS FOUND, by Clive Cussler, Putnam, $26.95

(Last week 4, Weeks on list 5)

The latest Dirk Pitt escapade finds the marine archaeologist battling a group of neo-Nazis as they race to discover the location of the civilization of Atlantis, which had been destroyed by a comet. "Atlantis Found" is typical of Cussler's later adventures, which have become noticeably more outlandish. However, those willing to indulge the preposterous - but fun - action-set pieces and clunky dialogue will relish the familiar ingredients of exotic locations and paeans to fraternal camaraderie. (544 pp.)

By Stephen Humphries

8. MONSTER, by Jonathan Kellerman, Random House, $25.95

(Last week 6, Weeks on list 5)

Kellerman's hero, Dr. Alex Delaware, gets involved in trying to solve a series of grisly murders whose only connection seems to be the incoherent ramblings of an incarcerated lunatic. Delaware and Detective Sturgis follow one thin lead after another to weave together a hunch that becomes a theory that leads to a manhunt while the killings continue. There are no overt roadsigns for the reader here. The story demands attention and imparts a sense of just how frustrating crime solving can be. (396 pp.)

By Phelippe Salazar

9. A WALK TO REMEMBER, by Nicholas Sparks, Warner Books, $24.98

(Last week 5, Weeks on list 14)

This warm portrayal of first love and its power speaks to the heart. Landon Carter is hit hard with the reality of college, life decisions, and thinking about someone other than himself. Teaching him about the importance of these things is Jamie Sullivan, a much-maligned do-gooder. Jamie's efforts to convince Landon to be in a play, visit an orphanage, and become more spiritually involved change Landon's life. This book reminds us that loving and giving have miraculous results.

(240 pp.)

By Rebecca J. Davis

10. THE ATTORNEY, Steve Martini, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $25.95

(Last week 0, Weeks on list 1)

Paul Madriani's new practice begins with a seemingly innocuous request to help an elderly millionaire find his granddaughter who has been kidnapped by her drug-addled mother. Madriani discovers that the mother didn't act alone; she hired a hard-nosed children's-rights activist who smuggles away children suspected of living in abusive homes. Martini's writing is enlivened with inventive metaphors and phrasing, but the characters fail to rise above the superficial.

(429 pp.)

By Stephen Humphries

11. SAVING FAITH, by David Baldacci, Warner Books, $26.95

(Last week 9, Weeks on list 9)

The villain in this political thriller is a classic spy character. Cold war super-patriot Robert Thornhill wants to reclaim the glory days of the CIA, but his nefarious plot unravels when Faith Lockhart, a Beltway lobbyist, rats to his nemesis: the FBI. Action fans will enjoy the techno-wizardry and conspiracy theories packed into this novel. But they deserve more than the shaky plotting, two-dimensional characters, and graceless prose that undermine the story's suspense.

(451 pp.)

By Sara Steindorf

12. POP GOES THE WEASEL, by James Patterson, Little, Brown & Co., $26.95

(Last week 8, Weeks on list 12)

Patterson's beloved detective, Alex Cross, is back chasing another psycho killer who is terrorizing the streets of Washington, D.C. This time, a British diplomat, protected by diplomatic immunity, has taken his obsession with an Internet role-playing game to the streets, and Alex's fiance gets caught in the middle. Patterson's characters are losing their appeal. There's no development and nothing seems to change: Their lives are just one shocking episode after another.

(423 pp.)

By Anne Toevs

13. SOFT FOCUS, by Jayne Ann Krentz, Putnam, $23.95

(Last week 10, Weeks on list 3)

When a high-tech crystal and its inventor disappear, two CEOs - ex-lovers with a tangled past - are thrown together to solve the mystery. Elizabeth Cabot and Jack Fairfax head to a film-noir festival where they hope to track down the inventor, a film buff and key suspect. Old feelings surface between Cabot and Fairfax, who find themselves tripping over a mix of murder and cinematic melodrama. Krentz crafts a steamy romance, but the plot is garbled and the ending lacks ingenuity. (368 pp.)

By Stephanie Cook

14. HUNTING BADGER, by Tony Hillerman, HarperCollins, $26

(Last week 11, Weeks on list 9)

This is a sub-par effort for Hillerman. The wanton murder of tribal police officers in the line of duty creates tension but comes across as strained and clich ridden, despite beautiful descriptions of southwest canyonlands and Navajo values. Detectives Leaphorn and Chee find themselves in the middle of real-life survivalist crimes in New Mexico and Arizona. They wind up in the moral equivalent of a no-exit canyon in their search for motive and fugitives. (275 pp.)

By Jim Bencivenga

15. PLAINSONG, by Kent Haruf, Alfred A. Knopf, $24

(Last week 13, Weeks on list 13)

Under the guise of small-town life, things start to go wrong in the lives of these richly written characters. When Tom Guthrie's wife leaves, he finds himself trying to raise two sons alone. Across town, two old bachelor

brothers begrudgingly take in a pregnant girl and slowly construct a family. "Plainsong" delivers a delicate message of interdependence, all the while showing how landscape affects who we are and how we think. National

Book Award nominee (Reviewed Oct. 21).

(301 pp.)

By Christian Stayner

BESTSELLER RANKING FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, JANUARY 24

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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