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Fierce Kingdom

A Novel

Gin Phillips

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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 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?

"A heart-thumping thriller . . . The story flies by like a gazelle being chased by a lion and is easily consumed in a single sitting."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Heart-stopping . . . A stunning novel you'll be talking about all summer long."

"A shot of pure adrenaline. But it's not just the action that will keep you turning pages: Fierce Kingdom is a moving story too."
-Entertainment Weekly

"Gin Phillips's heartpounding novel will have readers questioning what lengths a mother would go to in order to save her child . . . or someone else's."
-Real Simple

"A page-turning, adrenaline-soaked read."
-The Guardian

"Extreme heart-pounding adventure, right this way. Fierce Kingdom is the perfect summer thriller."

"The premise of this novel will send chills down the spine of any parent-and keep them turning pages into the wee hours."

"Fierce Kingdom is gripping and almost impossible to put down."
-The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Because we make fun of helicopter parents for the lengths they go to to keep perfectly safe children even safer, we can can forget that, for children, safety is a kind of love-and that makes Fierce Kingdom a terrifying book, but more importantly, a beautiful one."

"By introducing the threat of violence, the book amplifies everyday domestic concerns, producing a kind of crystallization of the experience of parenthood."
-The New Yorker

"Fierce Kingdom unfolds at a rapid-fire pace with each chapter upping the tension and danger."

"A powerhouse of a read that balances empathy and fear as it poses complex questions about human nature."
-Washington Independent Review of Books

"This heroine proves that a mom protecting her son is indisputably the fiercest creature in the animal world."

"Fierce Kingdom is a novel that crackles with tension and danger. . . . Do yourself a favor and devour this book before the inevitable movie premiere."
-New York Journal of Books

"This adrenaline-fueled thriller shows the animal instinct of one mother's love and the ferocity with which she fights to protect her son."
-Read it Forward

"It tore at every maternal fiber in my body. I couldn't put it down."
-Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow

"Fierce Kingdom is a bold exploration of the ferocity of a mother's love-riveting and beautiful, and all too real. You'll find yourself asking, what would I do? It's brilliant."
-Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

"I devoured it in one breathless sitting. Outstanding."
-Clare Mackintosh, New York Times bestselling author of I Let You Go

"This is an elegant, taut, and tense survival story that explores the boundaries of parental love. By pitting love against fear, Gin Phillips questions the opposing forces of family bonds and shows how fierce one mother's love can be."
-Claire Cameron, author of The Last Neanderthal and The Bear

"I loved this book not only as a mother, but as a woman-and a feminist-living in a world teeming with pressing domestic details along with unpredictable, casual violence."
-Susanna Daniel, award-winning author of Sea Creatures

"Phillips' characters are exquisitely rendered, her prose is artful and evocative . . . Poignant and profound, this adrenaline-fueled thriller will shatter readers like a bullet through bone."
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A searing exploration of motherhood at its most basic."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Phillips manages to combine beautiful imagery with heart-pounding, nerve-fraying intensity. . . . Fans of literary page-turners, like Sunil Yapa's Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, won't want to miss this."
-Booklist (starred review)

"Fierce Kingdom is stunning and extraordinary; keep the defibrillator handy."
-Shelf Awareness (starred review)

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.


Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 288
Erscheinungsdatum 24.07.2018
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-7352-2452-0
Verlag Penguin US
Maße (L/B/H) 19,6/13/2,3 cm
Gewicht 181 g


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  • 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 America, Green Lantern, and Iron Man. Everything comes back to superheroes lately. Pretend skeletons lurk beneath them in this sand pit-the vertebrae of some extinct animal protrude from the sand behind them, and there is a bucket of wor