Ten narrators is a bold choice, and readers will need the who’s who list provided, but when you’re writing your 23rd book, shouldn’t your choices be bold? The gaggle of narrators means that no one has enough page time for deep character development, but what’s there is rich enough to be revelatory, is expertly woven into the present, and the short chapters and changing cast are what turns The Lioness into a bloody sprint of a read ... Set against the backdrop of the Congo Crisis and the Simba rebellion, while also touching on American racism, especially in Hollywood, there are so many reasons the famous group could have been captured, and the unraveling of it all is captivating. But even more so is how a group of such prominent people react when they’ve landed in hell, and the reason behind their reactions ... In his writing, Bohjalian is anything but a kitten. Lesser writers could not tackle 10 narrators, the complexities of racism in America, African politics, violence both foreign and domestic and make the pieces fit seamlessly together. But Bohjalian has shown time and again that with him, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but you know that the getting is good ... With The Lioness, the getting is violently good. Pulled in by the promise of thrills or the guarantee of glamour, readers will stay for the game of survivor(s), and finish the book as satisfied as a fat cat in the Serengeti.
Bohjalian is at heart a thriller writer, eager to upend charming scenes of wildlife-spotting with a deadly twist...For all its open sky, The Lioness better resembles an Agatha Christie locked-manor-house mystery, with bodies falling like clockwork, than a gripping survivalist yarn...Where Bohjalian one-ups Christie is in his character development, going beyond the primary question to explore the psychology of the survivors...Each chapter alternates real-life drama with backstories that may or may not overlap...The result is a puzzle along two axes, interconnecting individual survival stories with a larger, much more sinister game afoot...Eras change; so do the styles of movie stars and the types of honeymoons they take...Drawing on its cast for both color and depth, The Lioness provides a meaty look at what makes us animals in what we call civilization—and what makes us human when we're out in the wild.
The magic of movies, both dark and light, is at play here: Several of the book's characters have found success in Hollywood, while others are struggling with the weighty baggage of parents-as-industry-icons or carrying childhood terrors in their emotional makeup...Most chapters begin with excerpts from The Hollywood Reporter and other fan-and-film publications that traffic in breathless, gossipy items...Despite the darker undercurrents palpable throughout the novel—at a certain point those Hollywood Reporter excerpts are upstaged by breaking-news items from the Los Angeles Times—the narrative is enlivened by pleasurably distilled contemporary references from artist Peter Max, Kodak Instamatic cameras, and the Beatles' concert at the Hollywood Bowl, to the days when smoking on planes was a given, fathers worked in advertising and mothers stayed home...Ultimately, the deadly-serious real-world tale that Bohjalian taps into—the horrifying outcomes of corruption-inducing power—is a not-so-gentle reminder that while you can't always stop the story, sometimes you can change it.