The Lioness

Doubleday. May 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780385544825. $28. SUSPENSE
Another tour de force from Bohjalian (The Hour of the Witch; The Flight Attendant). It is 1964, and the Simba rebellion is in full force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. American starlet Katie Barstow has everything: a flourishing acting career, a handsome new husband, a caring brother, good friends, a talented agent, and a gifted publicist. When Katie plans a special honeymoon safari in the Serengeti for her close-knit group of Hollywood royalty, they jokingly refer to themselves as the lions of Hollywood. They aren’t worried about rebellion in the Congo; after all, Kenya is miles away from the perilous fighting. Everyone considers Katie the “lioness” in charge, but that changes when Russian mercenaries with assault rifles hijack their idyllic vacation. While the characters travel through the Congolese landscape, readers tour the lives of the entourage. We glimpse their true motivations, strengths, and weaknesses under extreme duress. The Hollywood elite become the hunted as their instinctual fight for survival takes priority over all else.
VERDICT Fans of character-driven narratives will relish traipsing through both the Central African savannah and the souls and psyches of Bohjalian’s characters.
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