CONTENT A widower of seven years with grown daughters decides to sell the family home and buy an avocado grove in Texas, where he wrestles with big questions while interacting with an eccentric cast of characters.
GIST Armed with a textbook titled Philosophy Made Simple, Rudy Harrington attempts to figure out the meaning of life. In this improbable tale he tries on big philosophical ideas as he deals with a heart attack, plans a Hindu wedding, and acquires an elephant that paints abstracts. A lapsed Catholic priest provides the only hint of Christianity.
CAUTION Sex and language.
CONTENT When a federal judge and his mistress are murdered and a beautiful TV crime commentator goes missing, the Hunt Club, a San Francisco-based detective agency, sets out to find her and solve the murder.
GIST In this well-written series opener the two protagonists, a private investigator and a cop, struggle with their own demons as they fight against bad guys and a politically correct bureaucracy that cares little about justice. One recurring theme involves wounds suffered in childhood that continue to have effects into adulthood.
CAUTION Sex and language.
CONTENT A body washes up in Paradise, Mass., during Race Week. It leads Chief of Police Jesse Stone to uncover a ring of debased yachtsmen using their wealth and glamor to lure young women into sex.
GIST In Mr. Parker's well-known detective series, Spencer spouts existential truisms, his sidekick Hawk adds some humor, and his girlfriend/psychiatrist Susan adds a therapeutic gloss. Mr. Parker here relies on the same formula -only this time Stone is seeing rather than dating a therapist-and ends up with a depressing plot and characters set within a hopeless world.
CONTENT An affluent, cynical defense attorney who prefers guilty clients-because he wouldn't want to risk having an innocent one end up behind bars-surprises his friends and himself by caring about justice.
GIST A lawyer cruises the Los Angeles courtroom circuit in one of six Lincoln Town Cars he owns and defends unsavory characters. When he becomes the attorney for an accused Beverly Hills rapist, he has to weigh bigger bucks against innocent lives. Mr. Connelly teaches about the legal "machine" but also shows how it's still possible to do what's right.
The Da Vinci Code is in the news once again, this time because author Dan Brown has been sued for copyright infringement in a British court. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, published more than 20 years ago, charge Mr. Brown with taking the basic premise of his book, that Jesus had children, from them. The Australian newspaper points out an irony with the lawsuit: Random House imprints published both books, "so, in effect, Baigent and Leigh are suing their own publishers."
Whether or not the lawsuit is successful, The Da Vinci Code has spurred sales of the earlier book. According to Nielsen BookScan and The Book Standard, the 1983 paperback edition of Holy Blood and Holy Grail sold 165 copies in 2001 and 9,000 copies in 2002-but in 2003, the year The Da Vinci Code was published, Holy Blood, Holy Grail sales grew to 78,000 copies. Sales increased to 100,000 the next year; last week the book was No. 43 in Amazon.com sales.