The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday ISBN 9780385544801
Hardcover, $27.95, 400 pages
Last year Chris Bohjalian's thriller novel, The Flight Attendant, (my review here) was about a troubled flight attendant who becomes involved in a murder done by a murky Russian organization. It was good timing on Bohjalian's part that his book published at the height of the Russian election influence scandal.
This year his book, The Red Lotus, is about a group of nefarious people who are involved in a possible worldwide pandemic. (It makes me afraid to see what his next book will be!) Alex is on duty in a New York City hospital when a handsome man, Austin, comes into her emergency room after being stabbed in a bar by a homeless man.
They discover that Austin also works at the hospital, in fund development. They begin dating, and seven months later Austin and Alex are in Vietnam where they are taking part in a group bicycle tour. When Austin goes off on his own for a ride to visit the places where his uncle was killed in the Vietnam War and his father was shot, he doesn't comes back.
Alex has to work with the FBI, police, and embassy officials in Vietnam to try and find out what happened to Austin. She discovers that Austin lied to her- his uncle was not killed anywhere near where he was riding, and his father had not been shot in the war.
These lies bother her, and she wonders if she really knew Austin. She hires a private investigator to dig into Austin's life, and it turns out that there is a lot more to Austin than she knew, and it involves the hospital where they both work.
Once again, Bohjalian writes a smart, fast-paced thriller that had me reading well up past my bedtime. (Note to self- don't start reading his books after 9pm.) He keeps the reader guessing, and his characters are always interesting and well-drawn. I particularly liked Ken, the private investigator and Vietnam vet, and Toril, who worked in the American embassy in Vietnam, as well as Alex.
There is a scene at the end of the book that is so fraught with tension and action, I was gripping the pages so hard my hands hurt, and if it was a movie, I would have been peeking through my fingers at the screen. I could feel my heart pounding. (The Red Lotus would make a great movie.)
I live in New York City, and rats are a part of life here, and I do NOT like rats. I will warn readers that rats do play a big role in the story, and even though I really HATE rats (did I tell you that?), I still really liked The Red Lotus. I highly recommend it for readers who like a smart thriller. My heart is pounding just writing this review.
Chris Bohjalian's website is here ,where you can read the first two chapters online.