The Lioness

Chris Bohjalian. Doubleday, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-54482-5

In 1964, Hollywood star Katie Barstow and her Rodeo Drive gallerist husband head to Tanzania for a safari honeymoon, along with an assortment of family and friends, in this devastatingly cunning suspense novel from bestseller Bohjalian (Hour of the Witch). The group includes Katie’s psychologist brother and sister-in-law, an agent, a publicist, an actor and her screenwriter husband, and Katie’s costar in a scandalous film. Shepherded by a private guide in Land Rovers in the Serengeti, they take photos of giraffes, elephants, lions, and wildebeests, while a slew of porters and cooks provide such amenities as waterproof canvas bathtubs, a kerosene-powered ice maker, and a sufficient supply of gin and tonic. The idyll for Katie and crew comes to an end after they become the target of Russian mercenaries, who hold them captive in abandoned huts. Worse follows, including fatal snake bites. Bohjalian does a superb job of judiciously rolling out information of how past transgressions may have led to the heart-stopping episodes of chaos and carnage as the shocking, twist-filled plot builds up to the revelation of “the real reasons for the safari nightmare.” This brilliant whydunit is not to be missed. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (May)
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