Chris Bohjalian is an automatic buy for me, but THE RED LOTUS is the first of his novels I’ve purchased as an audiobook. What a brilliant decision, because the narrator’s pitch perfect voice fully immersed me in the crisp prose and the relentless tension that follows the story from a boutique hotel in Vietnam to a teaching hospital in New York.

Had I known more about the premise, I might have wrongly assumed THE RED LOTUS, with a thread that links pathogens and rats, wasn’t for me. It’s a huge tribute to the author that I didn’t freak out at the first mention of the plague. Or biowarfare. Once I realized where the plot was heading, I was too caught up in the characters and the Vietnamese settings to unplug.

The heroine, Alexis, is a remarkable woman: dogged, smart, courageous, and haunted by a personal demon that could, at any moment, re-surface with devastating effect. I loved her layers: her battles with grief and anger; her reactions as she discovers her boyfriend has created a false narrative of their idyllic vacation; her determination to find answers about his disappearance using skills mastered as an ER doctor.

Even the secondary characters are more complex than you might expect. For example, I pegged Alexis’ mother as a certain type of person—abrasive and driven. But those characteristics led her to do something incredible, and she light up for me as the best kind of parent. The bad guy is creepy and twisted, and despite two graphic scenes, I loved being in his perspective.

THE RED LOTUS is disturbing, gripping, and timely; a thriller with shocking reveals that continue until the final pages.  And yet it’s about humanity: love and family, truth and deceit, terror and greed.

So good, y’all.

 

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