Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: The Red Lotus

Lynn Willoughby

The Red Lotus ~ Chris Bohjalian

I finished this book as the world is watching Beijing’s pandemic numbers rise – in the so called second wave of Covid-19.  This is relevant as this mystery is …”a global thriller about those who dedicate their lives to saving people and those who peddle death to the highest bidder.”

The twenty million gallons of Agent Orange dumped on the forests of Vietnam for ten years killed so much life – people, plants, animals.  But one animal – the ultimate survivor, was the Vietnamese rat.  It not only survived, but through natural selection and many mutations, seemed to thrive and become heartier. It is a non symptomatic carrier of a lab produced pathogen similar to the Plague. This disease spreads easily, is resistant to every know antibiotic and causes death within hours of contact. Very scary stuff!

Austin Harper and his girlfriend Alexis are on a cycling tour in Vietnam. They both work at the same hospital in the USA – he is in administration, she is an ER doctor. Alexis finds she likes everything about Vietnam – the people, the scenery, the food, her fellow cyclists on the tour. Austin goes missing while biking alone on a special pilgrimage to honour his uncle who was killed in Vietnam, and his father, who was injured there during the war. But as we find out Austin has come under false pretenses, lied about everything in his life and no one really know anything about him at all. 

I have liked the previous novels I have read by Bohjalian, but this one fell short of my expectations. While the subject matter and many characters are terrifying – the story was predictable and the ending fell flat for me. I did learn a lot about rats!! For example – a female rat can give birth to ten to twelve litters per year, and the litters are typically fifteen to twenty baby rats. If all of the survivors are carriers of a deadly biological pathogen…..you don’t EVER exterminate them.  They evolve, they adapt. The most effective delivery vehicle for mass death ever to exist on earth is the rat. And while many doomsday prophets predict the cockroach will be the only survivor at the end of the world – apparently the smart money is on the rat!

  • Midwives
  • The Flight Attendant
    • and several others

Who Knew?

The Vietnam Red Cross chronicled millions of human deaths from the defoliant Agent Orange and nearly half a million born with birth defects – both in Vietnam and the USA.

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