By Kate Jennings

A snappy left-wing feminist named Cath takes a job at a stuffy Wall Street bank so she can cover husband Bailey's Alzheimer's bills. In alternating chapters, we see the progression of Bailey's illness. Jennings tries to make finance a metaphor for Alzheimer's, but the banking side of the book is vague and occasionally gets details wrong even though Jennings, like Cath, worked on the Street for years. The at-home half of the novel, by contrast, is whip-smart, knowing and wry. That irreverent style proves perfect for conveying how frighteningly unfamiliar Cath and Bailey's life becomes as he recedes into dementia. (Fourth Estate, $21.95)

Bottom Line: Half decent

By Tom Bradby

Shanghai in 1926 is a city of money and murder. As American and British industrialists and Chinese gangsters reap fortunes, the corrupt police ignore the gruesome slayings of Russian prostitutes. No one bothers much with solving the crimes except an idealistic young English inspector, Richard Field.

Author Bradby, a foreign correspondent for British TV before he was shot and wounded in Indonesia in 1999, has done his historical homework. But the vividly realized settings shame the genre clichés. Bradby even grinds his spurs into that workhorse of today's crime drama, the psychological profiler, to say things like, "He has done this before. It will certainly continue now." (Doubleday, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Routine fare served on fine China

By James Patterson with Peter de Jonge

Second-year law student Jack Mullen goes to the Hamptons and discovers that stone crabs aren't the only creepy things in the land of sun-kissed celebs. His kid brother dies mysteriously at a swank party attended by such starry couples as New York Knick Latrell Sprewell and his Bentley. (Many real-life figures populate this mystery.) Then Mullen's father dies. The cub barrister suspects the local billionaire and launches a guerrilla quest for justice.

Mullen's name ought to be Murphy since everything that can go wrong does, in almost stupefying style, chapter after cinematic chapter: Bi-coastal flyers will finish this yarn by Kansas City.

Some of the exploits are so knuckleheaded that the uninitiated can only wonder whether this is a spoof. Imagine the resident hit man arriving at the barber's—for the express purpose of whacking the stylist—but first demanding a shave.

The courtroom climax flatlines even before an appearance by, yes, Geraldo Rivera. It's bad enough dealing with this guy in real life; must we put up with him in fiction too? (Little, Brown, $26.95)

Bottom Line: Even the Hamptons deserve better

Surviving the Fame and (Mis)fortune of Hollywood
By Peter Bart and Peter Guber

At the start of The Last Tycoon, his unfinished final novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that Hollywood can be understood, "but only dimly and in flashes." Peter Bart and Peter Guber, both former studio execs who understand the town as well as anyone, take a scattershot approach to explaining why some films get made and others don't. We learn that major directors passed on The Godfather because they thought it glamorized the Mafia; 48 Hours was originally set to star Gene Hackman and Sly Stallone, then Richard Pryor and Burt Reynolds; and John Travolta, after differences with director Roman Polanski, simply jetted home from Paris three days before The Double was to shoot, scuttling the project.

"Have a drink or two with any production veteran, and inevitably he'll start telling his war stories—harrowing tales of movies that went awry, directors who cursed and stars who walked," write Bart, now Variety's top editor, and Guber, chairman of a production company. They provide stories aplenty, but a coherent thesis, other than that Hollywoodites behave badly, is less apparent. (Putnam, $26.95)

Bottom Line: Suffers from wayward aim

By Lisa Gardner

Beach book of the week

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When accused College Hill rapist Eddie Como is shot dead moments before his trial in Providence, his alleged victims—who meet to discuss vengeance in a tight-knit support group they call the Survivors Club—are suspected of hiring the hit man. Yet despite the women's clear motive, Det. Sgt. Roan Griffin has a hunch the culprit is someone else—particularly when the College Hill rapist strikes again, days after Como's death.

Showing a flair for lip-biting suspense, bestselling novelist Gardner (The Next Accident) combs out a tangled plot to an engrossing, if not entirely plausible, effect. Though nicely foreshadowed, the resolution leans too hard on such daytime-TV ploys as trauma-induced amnesia. A contrived romance between one of the survivors and Griffin stalls the otherwise riveting action. Warning: Gardner dishes out graphic violence with near-forensic detail, so this isn't one to read over lunch. (Bantam, $23.95)

Bottom Line: This club is worth the dues

By Jane Green

Cath, the British narrator of Bookends, is a graduate of the anti-Sex and the City school of comedic heroines: The kind who, frustrated by dating, is more likely to become best friends with Sara Lee. "I'm sprawled on the sofa, one leg flung over the back," she says of a typical night in, "cramming soft rice cakes topped with plastic-effect cheese and a healthy dollop of hummus (scooped from the tub by my finger)."

Couch potato though she may be, Cath can't escape the frazzled antics that Green, a native Londoner who lives in the U.S., regularly puts her single-gal heroines through. In this, her fifth novel, as in the bestselling Jemima J, Green gives readers a lovably imperfect protagonist, a heart-to-heart narrative voice and a bumpy, error-strewn highway to romance. After unspooling a decade's worth of entanglements between Cath and her friends, Green takes a surprisingly serious turn into issues of mortality and infidelity. By then readers should care about much more than whether Cath gets her man. (Broadway, $21)

Bottom Line: Pluck it off the shelf

  • Contributors:
  • Allison Lynn,
  • Allen Salkin,
  • Neil Graves,
  • Leah Rozen,
  • Ting Yu,
  • Julie K.L. Dam.