Chris Bohjalian skillfully twines two narratives that hurtle forward in the aftermath of a celebration gone horribly wrong.

Chris Bohjalian is a master at looking unflinchingly at morally complex human dramas and providing insights into the matrix of emotions and actions of his characters. In “Trans-Sister Radio,” he delves into the struggle of the sexual identity of a male college professor who has always felt he was woman, and the consequences that has for the woman who loves him. “Midwives” is the gripping tale of a Vermont midwife who performs an emergency cesarean section on a woman she believes has died in order to save the baby – then subsequently is forced to face the question and the public scorn that perhaps she was responsible for killing the woman. And in “Skeletons at the Feast,” Bohjalian crafts a harrowing account of a Prussian aristocratic family fleeing west in the snowy winter of 1945 by wagon and by foot – while secretly harboring an Allied prisoner-of-war and a Jew who escaped the death camps, all of them caught between the advance of the Russian army from the east and the devastation caused by the German army in the territory they must traverse to reach the safety of British and American lines.

Bohjalian does it yet again in his new novel, “The Guest Room,” with equal sure-footedness and compelling resonance. It is one of his most daring stories yet. He takes the reader deep into the darkest corners of illicit, international sex-slave trafficking in a riveting story about worlds in collision. One world is that of Richard Chapman, a New York City investment banker who lives with his wife, Kristin, and their 9-year-old daughter, Melissa, in a tony Westchester County suburb. The other is that of Alexandra, a young Armenian girl who was kidnapped by Russian thugs and forced into service as a prostitute in Moscow, then shipped upmarket to New York City.

The story is split between twin narratives that follow Richard’s and Alexandra’s lives. It opens as Richard prepares to host his brother Philip’s bachelor party in his Tudor-style home. One of Philip’s friends has arranged “entertainment” for the evening, believed to be the appearance of two strippers.

Richard wrestles with the quandary of going along with this. “He didn’t want to be a prig, however; he didn’t want to be the guy who put a damper on his younger brother’s bachelor party. And so he told himself the entertainment would be some girl from Sarah Lawrence or Fordham or NYU with a silly, mellifluous made-up name making a little money for tuition.”

The strippers, however, show up with two hulking Russian bodyguards. It becomes apparent to Richard that the evening’s entertainment is intended to go well beyond stripping and lap dances. All turns bloody, however, when one of the nearly naked girls jumps on the back of one of the Russians and repeatedly plunges a carving knife into his neck. The other Russian, coming to investigate, is shot dead. The two women dress hurriedly, emptying the pockets of their handlers of bundles of cash and two pistols, then escape in the SUV they arrived in as party members stare in stunned silence.

In Bohjalian’s hands, “The Guest Room” is about more than sex, blood and mayhem. In alternating chapters, he gives us the bittersweet backstory of Alexandra, barely more than a teenage girl from Yerevan, Armenia, who had dreams of becoming a famous ballerina, and the terrible consequence of being too trusting of others who promise to assist her. The author also intertwines the devolving aftereffects of the party that threaten everything in Richard’s dream life as loving husband and father, and successful investment banker.

Though originally well-intended, Richard is far from an innocent bystander in the events of the party. At one point, he stands naked in front of a naked Alexandra sitting on the bed in the upstairs guest room – before regaining a semblance of balance, thinking of Kristin and their marriage while also being deeply struck by the realization that the prostitute before him is little more than a beguiling girl on the cusp of full womanhood.

After Alexandra and Sonja, her companion, flee and the police show up, Richard realizes amidst the fog of what has happened that no one “was ever going to look at him quite the same way again.” The counterpoint is Alexandra on the run in New York City, where she wonders “how I had wound up where I was. Who was I.”

Bohjalian subtly crafts reverberating echoes between the two stories. Richard, for example, goes into Manhattan to see his wife, who had generously opted to let him host the party and had taken Melissa with her to stay with her mother in the city. He journeys from the guest room of illicit adventure in one house to the guest room of condemnation at his mother-in-law’s, where he faces Kristin’s shock and hurt, anger and doubt over what happened – and, as he swears, what did not happen – at home.

Another echo – this one greatly more affecting – comes in the haunting juxtaposition of Alexandra in her past childhood and Richard’s daughter Melissa currently in hers, both enamored with Barbie dolls, ballet and the fascination of painting their toenails. This skillful twining intensifies the complexity of emotions Richard continues to harbor for Alexandra, wondering who she really is, while worried also for her fate on the run, not merely from the police, but more gravely no doubt, from Russian mobsters who surely will seek vengeance for her transgressions. Struggling to repair the great rift between he and Kristin, Richard remains obsessed with Alexandra, evolving to a state of mind more akin to that of a worried father for an errant daughter.

Richard has to face the marital backwash of the event but also the professional repercussions when the story dominates the metropolitan news cycle for several days. Added to this is the threat of blackmail by one of his brother’s friends, who claims to be in possession of a video showing Richard naked with Alexandra in the guest room. This – combined with Sonja’s body washing up under a New York City pier – ratchets ups the ante on all fronts.

All the while, Bohjalian plays forward the narrative of Alexandra as the Russian mob shrinks the circle of anonymity in Manhattan where she attempts to hide.

That circle inevitably comes to hold Richard and Alexandra together again. It has moments of both tenderness and horror.

The world that Bohjalian creates and reveals in “The Guest Room” is sinister and tragic. But there is also light. The ending comes with a shock but will also leave the reader sitting quietly for a long moment, attempting to take it all in.

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer and ghostwriter whose novel “Dream Singer” was named a Notable Book of the Year in Literary Fiction in 2014 by “Shelf Unbound,” and was also a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, created by best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver. Smith can be reached via his website: