He has written dauntingly long (but fabulously engrossing) books that center on one city or area. Then he delves in and gives you all of the juicy historical details, told from the point of view of a common everyday person, rather than the kings and courtiers that usually crowd into the limelight. And he did it long before Ken Follett looked up to his famous pillars.
The stories spin a web to trap you, making you truly care about what happens to the families you love (or sometimes hate). And the clever historical facts are dropped in benignly, not in a way that shouts, "We're learning something here!"
I've been a huge fan – until recently. I know I said life is too short to read bad books, but even I can get snared by an author that I love. Rutherfurd's most recent book, Paris, was the bait and I fell for it. I wanted to love it, so much so that I kept plowing through it. By the end, I was so frustrated with it that I left the book in a New Orleans hotel. That's a big deal for a woman who treasures all of her other Rutherfurd books.
I don't review bad books, as you know, and this was not a "bad" book in the sense that it was well-written. If you've never read Rutherfurd, you may find it perfectly acceptable. But if you know Rutherfurd, it just isn't up to his usually high marks.
So below I'll list Rutherfurd's books from best to least-best, and then tell you why I love the City of Light, but I dislike Paris.