Bad Dudes Playing Darts: The Red Lotus, by Chris Bohjalian

Trigger warning for anyone suffering Corona-induced anxiety: It’s not a virus-specific story, but there’s a pretty bad bug at the center of Chris Bohjalian’s “The Red Lotus.”

There’s also rats. A lot of rats.

On the flip side, as someone that regularly wants to throat punch our president at his daily press briefings, Bohjalian’s latest kept me distracted and engrossed for most of a weekend — a welcome respite from the news of the nation.

Following on the heels of another strong female protagonist in “The Flight Attendant,” this novel features ER doc Alexis Remnick at the center of an international investigation into black market biological weapons.

Without giving too much away, I’ll just say this — for as well as Alexis can read a situation, she is not very good at reading men. Or, at a minimum, boyfriends.

Readers don’t really get to know Austin Harper very well, but the picture that’s painted is that of a man who has skated by on his good looks and family fortune. So it seemed a little bit of a disconnect that Alexis would date this guy, given her determination and cool, sure demeanor on the job. Maybe she’s got daddy issues. Or mommy issues. But she sure as hell is determined to find out why Austin was lying to her when he disappears on a bike tour in Vietnam.

Like “The Flight Attendant,” I found myself engrossed in the mystery of it all — what was Austin up to, who the f*ck is Douglas and what is this man’s obsession with darts, and why is Austin’s boss such a bitch? Alexis turns to a private investigator, who in turn is also engrossed in this whodunit, to find out why Austin was keeping secrets and who was behind his demise.

Bohjalian is a favorite author of mine, so it’s fun to pick up on the occasional insertions of his own personality into his books — in this case, biking. I wondered to myself at which point on one of his rides did her come up with the idea to place his poison where he did. Didn’t see that coming.

And Twitter fans, take note: If you ask an author a question, he may answer back:

A great read for along weekend, and a welcome distraction even if it is about plagues and rats and bad guys. Pick it up when bookstores open again, or better yet, order it online.

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