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.
I was immediately pulled into the mysterious elements of The Red Lotus, through details that were revealed in bits and pieces in the beginning, and then more slowly over time as the story unfolded. Alexis was the most interesting character to me, with her intense and diligent work as an ER doctor. But hovering overhead were the issues that further defined her character: emotional losses in childhood; a tendency to deal with anxiety through cutting; and blinders that prevented her from seeing the more obvious flaws in her friends and lovers.
I also enjoyed her persistence in finding answers to the big questions about her boyfriend’s character flaws, along with the nefarious reasons for the trips to Vietnam.
Rats are a big theme in the story, both in terms of the rodents that played a primary role in what eventually played out, but the metaphorical use of the term in labeling some of the darker characters. The story that kept me turning the pages was fascinating and a little creepy at times. I was rooting for Alexis and hoping she would guard herself against those who were out to do her harm. 4.5 stars.
***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.