Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Cambodian Book of the Dead

Cambodian Book of the DeadCambodian Book of the Dead by Tom Vater
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maier, a German reporter-turned-detective goes to Cambodia to find the heir to a coffee fortune. Maier's quest gets him entangled with a beautiful woman who's lovers inevitably die horribly, a Khmer Rouge general, and a Nazi war criminal called the White Spider. Will Maier return from the killing fields or die trying?

First, the official business. I got this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for reviewing it.

This book and I did not really get along. It's supposed to be a thriller but aside from a man being torn apart by a tiger shark, there aren't many thrilling bits in the first 50% of the book. The story started taking off after that but by then, I had already soured on it.

The book felt to me like Tom Vater has a great fascination with Cambodian history and culture. While that's fine, some of it felt really out of place in a thriller and slowed the story down considerably. By the time things picked up, I was ready for bad things to happen to Maier.

Speaking of bad things, the second half of the book salvaged things a bit as Maier had people gunning for him and wound up drugged a couple times. Another thing this book had going for it was the characters. While I didn't think Maier was anything special, I loved Clarissa, and thought Les, Pete, and Kaley were multifaceted characters and very nicely done. I also loved the little girl assassins. The White Spider's background was also really good.

Two stars. It was okay but the pace in the first half killed it for me.

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