The Red Lotus" By Chris Bohjalian
Books to Borrow Martinsburg Public Library Recommends
May 7, 2020
It was ironic that I started this book right before the statewide order that shut down our public library along with so many other local businesses. The irony came from the fact that this thriller is based on a highly infectious pathogen that includes lots of rats woven within an intermittent parallel plot. There is an unidentified narrator who keeps those rats front and center until the conclusion of the book, when that character is finally exposed.
The story takes our main character, Alexis, an emergency room doctor in New York City, on a bike tour in Vietnam. Alexis makes this trip with a new romance, Austin, who wants to show Alexis why he is so passionate about cycling, and so he can pay his respects to the place where his uncle and father fought in the war.
The author grabs our attention from the beginning as he opens the novel with Alexis waiting at a local Vietnamese hotel's pool for Austin's return from a solo bike ride. If you have ever waited on an overdue loved one's return, you will understand Alexis and her apprehension when hours pass with no word from Austin.
As the novel unfolds, Austin's mysterious disappearance and the parallel narrative about rats and their historic ability to spread disease will keep you intrigued. The new reality for Alexis is that nothing is as it seems. She is forced to become an amateur detective and make her way through a dangerous, international mystery.
As Sarah Lyall wrote in her New York Times review: "Chris Bohjalian is a pleasure to read. He writes muscular, clear, propulsive sentences. Even his unlikely scenes ring true, as in a tour-de-force climactic episode set inside a rat-research lab."
If you are a lover of thrillers, I encourage you to pick this book off our shelves whenever the library is given the green light to reopen. You won't regret it.