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Fierce Kingdom
Cover of Fierce Kingdom
Fierce Kingdom
A Novel
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One of the New York Times Book Review's Best Crime Novels of 2017“Warning: you'll finish this in one sitting.” —TheSkimm  “Expertly made thriller . . . clever and...
One of the New York Times Book Review's Best Crime Novels of 2017“Warning: you'll finish this in one sitting.” —TheSkimm  “Expertly made thriller . . . clever and...
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Description-

  • One of the New York Times Book Review's Best Crime Novels of 2017

    “Warning: you'll finish this in one sitting.” —TheSkimm  

    “Expertly made thriller . . . clever and irresistible.” —The New York Times

    An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.


    The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.
     
    Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

    A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

Excerpts-

  • From the cover 4:55 p.m.

    For a long while Joan has managed to balance on the balls of her bare feet, knees bent, skirt skimming the dirt. But now her thighs are giving out, so she puts a hand down and eases onto the sand.

    Something jabs at her hip bone. She reaches underneath her leg and fishes out a small plastic spear-no longer than a finger-and it is no surprise, because she is always finding tiny weapons in unexpected places.

    "Did you lose a spear?" she asks. "Or is this one a scepter?"

    Lincoln does not answer her, although he takes the piece of plastic from her open hand. He apparently has been waiting for her lap to become available-he backs up, settling himself comfortably on her thighs, not a speck of sand on him. He has a fastidiousness about him; he never did like finger painting.

    "Do you want a nose, Mommy?" he asks.

    "I have a nose," she says.

    "Do you want an extra one?"

    "Who wouldn't?"

    His dark curls need to be cut again, and he swipes them off his forehead. The leaves float down around them. The wooden roof, propped up on rough, round timber, shades them completely, but beyond it, the gray gravel is patterned with sunlight and shadows, shifting as the wind blows through the trees.

    "Where are you getting these extra noses?" she asks.

    "The nose store."

    She laughs, settling back on her hands, giving in to the feel of the clinging dirt. She flicks a few wettish grains from under her fingernails. The Dinosaur Discovery Pit is always damp and cold, never touched by the sun, but despite the sand on her skirt and the leaves stuck to her sweater, this is perhaps her favorite part of the zoo-off the main paths, past the merry-go-round and the petting barn and the rooster cages, back through the weedy, wooded area labeled only woodlands. It is mostly trees and rocks and a few lonely animals back here along the narrow gravel paths: There is a vulture that lives in a pen with, for some reason, a rusted-out pickup truck. An owl that glares at a hanging chew toy. Wild turkeys that are always sitting, unmoving; she is not positive that they actually have legs. She imagines some cruel hunter's prank, some sweat-stained necklace strung with turkey feet.

    She likes the haphazard strangeness of these woods, which are always shifting into some halfhearted try at an actual attraction. Currently a zip line is strung through the trees, although she never sees anyone zip-lining. She remembers animatronic dinosaurs here a couple of years earlier, and once there was a haunted ghost trail. There are hints at more distant incarnations: large boulders that she assumes are real but possibly are not, plus split-log fences and a pioneer cabin. No obvious purpose to any of it. Empty cement pools might have been watering holes for large mammals. There are occasional efforts at a nature trail, random signage that makes a walk feel less anchored rather than more-one tree labeled sassafras while the twenty trees around it go nameless.

    "Now, let me tell you something," Lincoln begins, his hand landing on her knee. "Do you know what Odin could use?"

    She does, in fact, know a great deal about Norse gods lately.

    "An eye store?" she says.

    "Yes, actually. Because then he could stop wearing his eye patch."

    "Unless he likes his eye patch."

    "Unless that," Lincoln agrees.

    The sand around them is scattered with small plastic heroes and villains-Thor and Loki; Captain...

About the Author-

  • Gin Phillips is the award-winning author of The Well and the Mine and Come In and Cover Me. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 1, 2017
    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—turning 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—both human and animal—with 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.

  • AudioFile Magazine Cassandra Campbell narrates this incredible story of motherhood, love, moral responsibility, and survival. Joan and her 4-year-old son are enjoying the last few moments before closing time at the zoo when shots ring out and her idyllic afternoon becomes a nightmare. Narrating primarily from Joan's perspective, Campbell captures her horror, determination to survive, and devotion to her son. Campbell also perfectly captures the inner thoughts and outer reactions of each of the other characters in the novel--both good and evil. At times, it can be difficult to listen to the violence in the story, but, ultimately, the bond between mother and child and the question of our moral obligation to others take center stage. This fast paced audiobook will remain with listeners long after the story ends. K.S.M. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 2, 2017
    Phillips, whose last two books were written for preteens, has produced a taut thriller with Lincoln, a precocious four-year-old, and his remarkable mother, Joan, at its center. Their plight is the focus of this almost minute-by-minute replay of events that take place one evening at the local zoo, as Joan attempts to protect her son from two gunmen who have opened fire. The reason for their rampage, and how Joan valiantly attempts to protect her child from them, keep the reader going as the tension ratchets up. Narrator Cassandra Campbell, who recreates all of the characters’ voices and inner monologues —including those of the gunmen—has a remarkable ability to project a range of emotions with ease. She helps the reader imagine Joan, Lincoln, the shooters, and the handful of other characters who circle each other in the three or so hours during which the drama plays out. Listeners feel Joan’s fear and anger as she talks her son into keeping himself together in the face of horrific violence. And most of all, Campbell reveals the bond between mother and son, as each tries to be brave for the sake of the other. A Viking hardcover.

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