The Monitor Guide to The Bestsellers

The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers


1. THE BRETHREN, by John Grisham, Doubleday, $27.95

(Last week 1, Weeks on list 2)

Three federal prison inmates, former judges, design a mail scam preying on people's most intimate secrets. Their victims, closet homosexuals hoping to find something special with a fictitious character created by the Brethren, are willing to hand everything over to keep their secrets from getting out. Soon, these con men catch the biggest fish of all - the front-runner for the upcoming presidential election. Grisham has done a great job with this story of politics and extortion. (366 pp.)

By Anne Toevs 2. GAP CREEK, by Robert Morgan, Algonquin Books, $22.95

(Last week 2, Weeks on list 4)

Imagine a Stephen King novel based on the family in "Little Women" and written in the language of "Huck Finn." Now subtract the sensitivity of Alcott and the themes of Twain, and you've got the gap creaking in Morgan's work. One of Oprah's recent choices, this tale of an Appalachian couple at the turn of the 19th century is told through the use of ugly images of death and hardship, which, lacking the string of tenderness necessary to tie them together, leave the reader disgusted rather than affected. (324 pp.)

By Christy Ellington

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

(Last week 3, Weeks on list 6)

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, brazen babe. As they track the 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

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

(Last week 4, Weeks on list 6)

Hiaasen has woven together a wacky tale of a Florida land deal gone bad (very bad) by the mishappenings of a lovable, oversized black Labrador retriever named Boodles. Motivated by greed, fame, sex, and old-boy political favors, Hiaasen's corrupt southern politicians pay a chaotic price for their decadent ways. It's a fun read with wonderful southern wit. But be alert to colorful language, sexual references, and graphic violence.

(341 pp.)

By Anne Toevs

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

(Last week 6, Weeks on list 12)

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 Hundred Year's War. While the capture-escape plot is overdone, the historical details are refreshing. (449 pp.)

By Suman Bandrapalli

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

(Last week 5, Weeks on list 7)

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 the middle of the expedition approaches, however, readers may feel trapped in a long, bumpy ride. (640 pp.)

By Christy Ellington

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

(Last week 8, Weeks on list 18)

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

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

(Last week 7, Weeks on list 9)

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 has 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

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

(Last week 9, Weeks on list 5)

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

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

(Last week 11, Weeks on list 5)

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

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

(Last week 10, Weeks on list 5)

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 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

12. GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, by Tracy Chevalier, E.P. Dutton, $24.95

(Last week 15, Weeks on list 3)

This affecting story is told by Griet who finds work as a maid in the home of Johannes Vermeer, cleaning his studio. Like the 17th-century Dutch master, Griet is fascinated by the play of light and the suggestive power of details. Chevalier's story shares some of the striking qualities of Vermeer's paintings, but at times her style seems self-consciously rich. Her poor narrator sounds like she has a Master's degree in creative writing. That aside, Chevalier re-creates daily life with stunning authenticity. (Reviewed Dec. 30) (240 pp.)

By Ron Charles

13.SCANDALMONGER, by William Safire, Simon & Schuster, $27

(Last week 14, Weeks on list 2)

"Scandalmonger" is a smart, rollicking dramatization of the scandals that shook Thomas Jefferson's administration and barred Alexander Hamilton from the presidency. Safire focuses his novel on James Callender, an incendiary journalist and editor fleeing from Scotland. But the novel's real subject and the one closest to Safire's heart is the freedom of the press, a liberty that evolved haphazardly and was almost snuffed out by President Jefferson's efforts to silence Callender. (Reviewed

Jan. 20) (496 pp.)

By Ron Charles

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

(Last week 12, Weeks on list 9)

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

15. BLACKOUT, by John J. Nance, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $23.95

(Last week -, Weeks on list 1)

Nance's latest airplane-disaster book will keep you turning the pages. It begins with a deadly plane crash in the Atlantic. Two months later, the pilot of a 747 dies, and the copilot is blinded shortly after take-off from Hong Kong by an incredible burst of bright light. A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and a young female FBI agent end up in a life-and-death struggle over the Pacific, to discover the connection between these two events. A gripping story, but you might not want to take it on your next flight! (400 pp.)

By Lynne Osborn


* Chicago Tribune; Rocky Mountain News; Entertainment Weekly; Los Angeles Times; Booklist; Wall Street Journal; New York Post

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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