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Culture Notable Books

Notable Books

Notable books

Four boundary-busting mysteries

CONTENT As criminal defense attorney Paul Madriani defends a client charged with murdering a software mogul, he uncovers a secret government program to collect personal data in the name of national security.

GIST Mr. Madriani takes on the high-profile case knowing that he has to find a way to defend a man who has made his living in the army's Delta Force, doing things that jurors would prefer not to think about. Mr. Martini's vividly drawn characters and ability to make courtroom scenes come alive set him above other writers in the genre.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

CONTENT When a 15-year-old autistic boy discovers his neighbor's poodle skewered by a gardening fork, he determines to track down the killer.

GIST What sets this book apart is the narrative voice of Christopher Boone, the autistic boy who decides to solve a crime and write a book. His special way of looking at the world-he is unable to lie, to perceive other people's emotions, or to tell a joke-and his love of math (the chapters are numbered by prime numbers) give this book a cock-eyed sensibility and bittersweet charm.

To the Power of Three

CONTENT A school shooting days before high-school graduation shocks the residents of an affluent Baltimore suburb and raises questions about how a long-time friendship between three girls could go so wrong.

GIST Ms. Lippman stretches the boundaries of the detective genre to explore the terrain of suburban high-school life. She gets into the heads of her characters, including the three friends, a naïve high-school counselor, a grieving father, and the investigating police officer, who sees an aspect of high-school life that makes him fear for his own preteen daughter.

The Black Angel: A Thriller

CONTENT A private investigator finds that the disappearance of a young woman is part of a supernatural battle that may involve fallen angels from the beginning of time.

GIST Evocative writing with theological undertones and lots of violence fill this fifth of the Charlie Parker series with memorable characters; some readers won't want to have such memories. The haunted hero, brooding about the murder of his wife and child and desiring to protect a new love, can't avoid a good vs. evil battle that transports readers from New York City to the Czech Republic.

In the spotlight

According to Nielsen Book Scan, which tracks sales at major bookstores and chains, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the big winner in 2005, selling 4.1 million copies. The Oprah edition of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, published in September, was in second place with sales of 1.8 million. (The website Smoking Gun recently accused Mr. Frey of fabricating and exaggerating episodes in his memoir about addiction.) The Kite Runner, 1776, and The Da Vinci Code-all selling more than a million volumes-rounded out the top five bestselling books of 2005.

Fifty of the 200 bestselling books belonged to the crime fiction genre, according to the "Crime Fiction Dossier" blog. John Grisham had three books and James Patterson six; other writers with multiple volumes on the list included Dan Brown, Janet Evanovitch, Michael Connally, Michael Crichton, Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci, Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, and Dean Koontz.