The latest books from John Grisham, Judith Krantz, and Tony Hiss

Health and Happiness
Diane Johnson
This sexy, smart soap opera set in a San Francisco hospital is so much fun you are tempted to think it must be trash. And yet the dry wit of Johnson, a literary heavyweight (The Shadow Knows, Lying Low), makes that categorization impossible. The novel’s romantic elements are effective, but the examination of the hospital’s political maneuverings is truly riveting. A — Liz Logan

The Firm
John Grisham
To Mitchell McDeere, who is about to graduate third in his class at Harvard Law, the offer from the Memphis firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke seems too good to be true. By the time he realizes that the firm is the ”Hotel California” of tax law, it’s too late to leave except in a coffin. A relatively ingenious man-in-the-middle thriller that spent most of last year on the best-seller lists. B

The Experience of Place
Tony Hiss
The writer’s style is not quite equal to his subject: the mystery and science of why some settings make people feel good and others make them feel terrible. The first half of the book takes New York as its laboratory, and should be read by anyone who cares about the city. The second half, which moves to the countryside, is less focused and ends with a disappointingly vague call to environmental action. B — LL

Coyote Waits
Tony Hillerman
Even now that he’s a Big Name, Hillerman doesn’t seem to be getting lazy or grandiose. He continues to produce gently impressive mystery fiction: a little slow, a little somber, yet gripping, too. This 11th tale of the vast Navajo reservation has one of the series’ least dramatic plots, but it’s sturdy work from an incorruptible craftsman. A-

The Difference Engine
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
In their first collaboration, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling — the Katzenjammer Kids of mid-’80s cyberpunk science fiction — have spun out a strange, frightening, often funny, and utterly convincing tale from the question ”What if computers had been invented 150 years ago, in Queen Victoria’s London?” A

A Dangerous Woman
Mary McGarry Morris
A close-grained observation of the way good citizens turn an emotionally disoriented girl into a social menace. Morris, whose splendid first novel, Vanished, combed through the untidy mind of a teenage kidnapper, knows how to keep a balance between the wobbly inner lives of her outsiders and the external forces that finally drive them over the edge. B

Judith Krantz
Welcome to the filthy rich, oversexed world of Judith Krantz, where women fall in love with men who call them ”poor sweet dumbbell” and men are rarely more than lumps of throbbing flesh. Dazzle delivers the customary Krantz titillations: compulsive sex, wasteful spending, and chronically successful jet-setters. But unlike her previous works, this one has a social imperative, and the surprise is that a social justice of a Krantzian sort wins out. C