cover image Fierce Kingdom

Fierce Kingdom

Gin Phillips. Viking, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2427-8

In this harrowing thriller from Phillips (Come in and Cover Me), set at a zoo in an unnamed city, one second Joan is pressing her four-year-old son, Lincoln, to pack his action figures so that they can get out by closing time, and the next gunshots ring out%E2%80%94turning their pleasurable afternoon routine into a parent's worst nightmare. Over the next three hours, Joan struggles to keep her tired, cranky preschooler quiet as she attempts to find a safe hiding place or escape route. She discovers that others are similarly trapped, and that there are apparently multiple shooters, who regard their prey%E2%80%94both human and animal%E2%80%94with no more compassion than if they were targeting Lincoln's plastic heroes and villains. In passages of unexpected beauty, Joan flashes back to earlier moments in her relationship with her son. In one poignant scene, a colobus monkey seemingly mourns its slain comrade ("standing so close that its long white fur mixes with the fur of the dead one, and Joan cannot tell where one stops and the other starts"). A searing exploration of motherhood at its most basic, this all-too-plausible horror story may haunt even readers with steely nerves and strong stomachs. Author tour. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (July)