1. The Closers-Michael Connelly
Plot: A Los Angeles police detective tries to solve the murder of a young woman 17 years earlier, and sees how the "ripples" of crime can have a destructive long-term impact.
Gist: A well-constructed plot, good descriptive writing, and the absence of graphic violence, sex scenes, and bad language (except in several character-appropriate situations) make this book a good choice for those who like the tough-cop genre.
2. 4th of July-James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Plot: While awaiting trial for police brutality, San Francisco cop Lindsay Boxer hides out at her sister's house in Half Moon Bay, where she stumbles upon a trio of vicious killers who usually go after married couples, but now focus on her.
Gist: Part courtroom drama and part inept murder investigation, the book is typical Patterson: page-turning action, undeveloped characters, vicious murders, and a soupaon of sex all crammed into many short chapters.
3. The Mermaid Chair-Sue Monk Kidd
Plot: A late-night phone call beckons a middle-aged woman back to her childhood home, where she discovers long-buried secrets and succumbs to temptation.
Gist: When middle-aged Jessie Sullivan goes to take care of her mentally suffering mother, she takes the opportunity to shed her husband of 20 years and blames him for squelching her creativity. The affair she begins with a soon-to-be-monk makes her feel alive.
4. True Believer-Nicholas Sparks
Plot: Manhattan sophisticate with a bruised heart meets Southern small-town librarian with a bruised heart, and they fall in love. But is love enough to bridge the gap?
Gist: "All you need is love" (and sex) is the worldview of this book, in which a rationalist reporter, whose professional life has been given over to exposing scientific fraud, visits a small town to investigate mysterious lights and falls in love with a woman whose grandmother is a psychic of sorts.
5. Broken Prey-John Sandford
Plot: With his family safely away in London, Minnesota investigator Lucas Davenport devotes himself to chasing down a serial killer who flays and sexually abuses his victims.
Gist: Davenport has walked Minnesota's mean streets for many books, but even this hardened investigator is shocked by the horrific crimes. Graphic sex scenes, street language, and sadistic killings detract from the page-turning narrative.
In the spotlight
Go into any chain bookstore and you will see knee-high stacks of the latest bestsellers. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, those stacks are a symptom of the book industry's ill health. Here's why: Each year more books are published, and even bestsellers by big-name authors find it hard to stay on the top lists for more than a couple of weeks. A book with bestselling ambitions must make a quick splash and be visible in stores-thus the big piles.
Since the number of superstores has increased substantially, superstore chains have to order enough copies to ensure that each store has its required 25 copies. What happens if a book fails to sell its predicted 100,000 copies? The stores send the unsold books back to the publisher, which sells them to a discount buyer. If the books don't sell even at discounted prices, they will be sent to the recycler and ground into pulp. All the waste inflates book prices and makes it hard for first-time and mid-list authors to get published.