The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian
Alexis and her boyfriend Austin decide to take their first big trip as a couple to Vietnam on a bike tour. Austin wants to visit the site where his uncle was killed in the war as well as where his father was injured by a bullet. He took the same bike tour last year but he was unable to visit that area because heavy rains washed out his route. This year the weather on the day of his ride isn’t cooperative either but the next day it is clear and he convinces Alexis and the tour guides that he can handle the 70+ mile ride and going alone will be a wonderful way to pay his respects to his family. But Austin doesn’t return. When he’s a couple of hours late the tour guides search the roads and Alexis called the consulate; he is not found on the route. When Austin’s body is found Alexis is called on to identify the body. It is him but since she is an ER doctor she has some questions about his injuries. How did a fall from a cliff cause that perfectly round hole in the back of his hand? Where did Austin go that day? How much danger has he brought to Alexis?
I am a huge fan of Bohjalian and continue to be even though I really didn’t like his last book, The Flight Attendant, but he redeemed himself in my mind in this one! I love this author because you never know what you’re going to get. It can be historical, psychological, light horror or in this case a mystery mixed with a character study and biomedical research. So yes, the framework is a mystery/thriller but it’s also about a young woman dealing with grief and learning that the man she fell in love with was not the man she knew.
I have to admit I’m a bit interested in visiting Vietnam after reading this book; the country seems so beautiful and the people kind and warm. Not so sure about the grueling bike tour though.