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BESTSELLERS

Culture | The Top 5 best-selling hardback novels as measured by placement on four leading lists as of April 1

Issue: "Baghdad set free," April 19, 2003
Scoring system: 10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for 10th, on the lists of the American Booksellers Association (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), The New York Times (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), Publishers Weekly (general bookstores), and Amazon.com (internet purchases).
1
The King of Torts
John Grisham 36 Points
PLOT
A mysterious benefactor lifts a young lawyer from the public defender's office and installs him as the newest and wealthiest class-action specialist.

GIST
Instead of presenting a rookie lawyer trying to make good, Grisham gives us a cynical public defender all too easily captured by greed.

CAUTION
Mild obscenities and profanities, adult situations.

2
The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold 31 Points
PLOT
Susie Salmon, 14, is murdered by her neighbor. From "heaven" she watches the effects of her murder on family and friends.

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GIST
Heaven in this novel has no God, but is a place where what you want, you get. Eventually she sees her friends and family rebuild lives shattered by grief.

CAUTION
Some language, violence, and sexual situations; particularly graphic opening chapters.

3
The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown 29 Points
PLOT
A curator at the Louvre is murdered, but before he dies leaves clues that send his granddaughter (a police cryptologist) and his colleague (a Harvard professor) on a search for the killer.

GIST
The premise of this book-Jesus had an affair with Mary Magdalene that produced a son-is offensive. Brown will please goddess-worshipping conspiracy buffs who like weird theories of biblical interpretation.

4
The Jester
James Patterson 29 Points
PLOT
In pursuit of liberty Hugh de Luc goes on a crusade and returns to find his wife kidnapped and infant son murdered. He begins another crusade to find her and liberate peasants.

GIST
A Patterson thriller with a medieval twist. Fans won't find the book too far afield: Chapters are still short, action fast-paced, violence graphic and often gratuitous, character development nil, language vile and modern.

CAUTION
Scattered obscenities.

5
Back Story
Robert Parker 23 Points
PLOT
In his 30th outing, private investigator Spencer sets out to solve a 28-year-old murder that the FBI and police seem happy to leave unsolved.

GIST
Fans of Robert Parker's spare prose, literary allusions, existential moral code, and familiar cast of characters will appreciate this book. His characters shoot guns, spout philosophy, and cook with equal skill.

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