Bohjalian manages to keep us guessing and turning pages until the very end.

THE RED LOTUS

In Bohjalian’s (The Flight Attendant, 2018, etc.) breathless thriller, the death of an American bicyclist in Vietnam sets off a race to avert further catastrophe.

Alexis, a doctor at an unnamed university hospital in Manhattan, met Austin six months ago when he came into her ER with a bullet in his arm, fired by a junkie in a bar where Austin and a chance acquaintance, Douglas, were playing darts. Austin works as a fundraiser at the same hospital. In fact, his office, significantly as we will learn, is near a rodent research lab. The present action takes place over a countdown clock of 10 days, beginning in Vietnam, where the new couple is on a bike tour. Austin goes for a solo ride, telling Alexis he wants to pay respects by visiting the locations where his uncle was killed and his father wounded during the war. When he doesn’t return, Alexis goes out looking for him, finding a few packets of energy gel that we already know Austin dropped on the road while being abducted—by Douglas. Pressing Austin for information, Douglas drives a dart into Austin’s hand. Vietnamese police discover Austin’s body and a post-mortem concludes that he was killed in a hit-and-run collision. While identifying the body, though, Alexis notices the wound on Austin’s hand and suspects foul play. Back in New York, she hires Ken, a PI, to investigate. Quang, a Vietnamese police captain, suspects that Austin was a smuggler, but of what? Alexis soon learns that Austin had lied about many things, not least his true mission in Vietnam. What characters learn, and when, is critical. Abetted by shifting points of view, seemingly disparate elements eventually converge to create a burgeoning sense of dread. Italicized, anonymous first-person comments, interspersed throughout, cite the long history of rats as quickly evolving plague carriers—most recently, of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Among many tantalizing questions: Austin’s former boss Sally is Douglas’ lover—where do her loyalties lie? In fact, whose side is Douglas on? And what is in those packets?

Bohjalian manages to keep us guessing and turning pages until the very end.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54480-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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