Title: The Red Lotus
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Page Length: 372
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Synopsis: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant comes a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.
The first time Alexis saw Austin, it was a Saturday night. Not in a bar, but in the emergency room where Alexis sutured a bullet wound in Austin’s arm. Six months later, on the brink of falling in love, they travel to Vietnam on a bike tour so that Austin can show her his passion for cycling and he can pay his respects to the place where his father and uncle fought in the war. But as Alexis sips white wine and waits at the hotel for him to return from his solo ride, two men emerge from the tall grass and Austin vanishes into thin air. The only clue he leaves behind is a bright yellow energy gel dropped on the road.
As Alexis grapples with this bewildering loss, and deals with the FBI, Austin’s prickly family, and her colleagues at the hospital, Alexis uncovers a series of strange lies that force her to wonder: Where did Austin go? Why did he really bring her to Vietnam? And how much danger has he left her in?
Set amidst the adrenaline-fueled world of the emergency room, The Red Lotus is a global thriller about those who dedicate their lives to saving people, and those who peddle death to the highest bidder.
Alex, an ER doctor in a New York hospital, first meets Austin when she treats his bullet wound during one of her shifts. Six moths later, Alex travels with her now boyfriend Austin to Vietnam for a biking tour and to see the country where Austin’s father and grandfather fought in the war.
When Austin doesn’t return from a solo ride, Alex worries something happened to him. The Vietnamese police and the American Embassy become involved, and Austin’s body is found. Though is is suggested that he is a victim of a hit-and-run accident, in Alex’s estimation, the wounds on his body suggest otherwise.
Alex returns home and, unable to properly mourn, knowing something is not right, she searches for answers about her boyfriend’s disappearance and subsequent death. With the help of an investigator, she learns that Austin is not the man she thought he was.
One aspect of the book that I like is the characters. They are interesting and confusingly ambiguous at the same time. Throughout the book, I wasn’t sure who was trustworthy, who was dishonest, and who was reliable. Alex is a well-developed protagonist with demons and struggles of her own. She comes across many obstacles when trying to find out more about what happened to Austin, yet her determination prevails.
This is an intense thriller with a lot of twists and turns. I like stories that keep me on my toes, and this did just that. As the details (and lies) of Austin’s life unfold, the story becomes more twisted and suspenseful. The events and themes are relevant and alarming, exposing the global consequences of one’s actions. In a time when we are in a world-wide pandemic, this story becomes even more captivating and horrifying.
I won The Red Lotus in a Goodreads Giveaway, and all thoughts are my own.
This is a great story for people who like suspenseful thrillers with geo-political ramifications.
Inside the Book: Chris Bohjalian
Check out this video of the author discussing his book from Penguin Random House.