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The Cambodian Book of the Dead [Paperback]

Tom Vater
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 13.99
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Book Description

4 Jun 2013
Private eye and former war reporter, Maier is sent to Cambodia to track down the missing heir to a Hamburg coffee empire. His search leads him into the darkest corners of the country's history, through the Killing Fields of the communist revolution, to the White Spider, a Nazi war criminal who reigns over an ancient Khmer temple deep in the jungle. But the terrifying tale of mass murder that Maier uncovers is far from over. And soon Maier realises that, if he is to prevent more innocent lives from being destroyed, he will have to write the last horrific chapter himself. The Cambodian Book of the Dead - it's where Apocalypse Now meets The Beach -

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Exhibit A (4 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909223182
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909223189
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,221,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Vater is a writer working in South and South East Asia. He writes both in English and German. His articles have been published around the world. He is the author of several books and has co-written a number of documentary screenplays for European television. His books on South Asian themes include two novels, several non-fiction titles, travel guides and photo books, including the acclaimed Sacred Skin. TIME Magazine described his recent work as 'exuberant writing'.

Tom first visited Asia in 1993. His first destination, India, proved to be a life-changing experience. At the time, Tom was documenting the music of India's indigenous minorities for the British Library's International Music Collection. This project continues and has resulted in the collection of hundreds of hours of musical traditions, many of which are slowly fading away in the face of globalization. Because of the unique contact Tom had with many indigenous communities, he began to write about minorities in South Asia.
His first publication (barring a virtually forgotten past as editor of student magazines and music critic for a German daily) was a full page spread on Nepali folk music in Nepal's biggest English language paper in 1997. Since then, he has never looked back.

Tom's work has appeared in a wide variety of publications - from well-known dailies to specialist magazines - including The Asia Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Marie Claire and Penthouse.

Tom often works with Thai photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat, whose images have appeared in GEO, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. For a look at Aroon's images, visit her website

Tom is the co-founder of Crime Wave Press (, a Hong Kong based fiction imprint that endeavors to publish the best new crime novels from Asia and about Asia to readers around the globe.

Much of the year, Tom is on the road, researching stories, fulfilling assignments. His travels have led him (on foot) across the Himalayas, given him the opportunity to dive with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines and left him stranded in dozens of train stations, airports and bus terminals around South Asia, Europe and the US. On his journeys, he has joined sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims and soldiers, secret agents, pirates, hippies, police men and prophets. Everyone put up with him longer than he deserved.

You can also follow Tom on his Facebook page, his Goodreads page or his crime fiction blog as well as on his flickr page.

Product Description


"The narrative is fast-paced and the frequent action scenes are convincingly written. The smells and sounds of Cambodia are vividly brought to life. Maier is a bold and brave hero." - Crime Fiction Lover (The Site for Die Hard Crime & Thriller Fans)

About the Author

Tom Vater's work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Times, The Guardian, The Asia Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire and Penthouse. He is The Daily Telegraph's Bangkok expert. On assignments, he's joined sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims, sex workers, serial killers, rebels and soldiers, politicians and secret agents, artists, pirates, hippies, gangsters, police men and prophets. Some of them have become close friends.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and Chilling 29 July 2013
By W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada TOP 1000 REVIEWER
As a non-native speaker myself, I find authors that write in English when this is not their mother tongue fascinating. I'd like to think I'm pretty fluent in English, but I still find myself stumbling for words sometimes, especially when writing because metaphors and sayings are often hard to translate; you have to know the equivalent in English, which might not even resemble the saying in Dutch. So to think of not only writing a book, but writing it in your second language, is something that floors me. Yet that is exactly what Tom Vater has done. And to great effect too, because The Cambodian Book of the Dead is an engrossing read.

The setting for the book is original. I've never read anything set in Cambodia before and beyond the fact that it has been war-torn for decades due to the Khmer Rouge, who were responsible for the Killing Fields, and the fact that is it home to the legendary temple complex of Angkor Wat, I'm quite unfamiliar with its history and culture. Its protagonist is quite original too; Maier is a war reporter turned private detective, something you don't usually run across. And these two are combined into a story that is both riveting and chilling.

Maier is interesting and sympathetic, even if he is something of a loner and not always the most likeable person. I found his background quite interesting; an Eastern German by birth, who after re-unification found opportunity beckoned and lived a life he could only have dreamed of before the Wall came down and who got out of it after experiencing one too many traumas. This has to be a bubbling pot of stories waiting to be written as where has he been beyond Cambodia?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous Days in Cambodia 29 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This novel was recommended by a friend, maybe because c rime fiction set in Cambodia is a novel (if you'll excuse the pun) idea. Being unfamiliar with Cambodia, I had to accept that the happenings of the criminal underworld were feasible; they certainly won't encourage the tourist trade! However, as a holiday read in neighbouring country, Thailand, in a very different environment, it was entertaining.
I was also curious whether the inheritance of the war is as tough as portrayed in the novel; where distrust still reigns among Cambodian residents.

it was certainly a thought-provoking book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Picks up in the second half 2 Aug 2013
By Curiosity Killed The Bookworm TOP 500 REVIEWER
After retiring from a life as a war correspondent, Maier is now working as a private investigator out of Hamburg. When he boss sends him on an assignment to retrieve a wayward coffee tycoon's son, he must face his past and return to Cambodia. A country filled with memories of lost friends and atrocities.

The Cambodian Book of the Dead looks at the state of modern day Cambodia, one that the tourist board would like to hide. The majority of tourists take their money to Angkor Wat and the rest of the country lives in a country struggling to get back on its feet after the damage inflicted by the Khmer Rouge. Foreigners come and take advantage of the women and children and buy up land at prices the locals could never compete with. Officials are corrupt and justice rare. The jungles are literal minefields. It's all a bit seedy and makes you want to have a bath.

Whilst I found the background on Cambodia interesting, it was fairly slow starting. It's obvious that the fishing village of Kep is riddled with dodgy people, we have to wait nearly 100 pages for the first body to turn up. The second half is much faster paced; dark and slightly surreal. I very nearly put it down but was rewarded for continuing. Despite that, I never really connected with any of the characters; they're a despicable lot and I even struggle to find redeeming features in the good guys.

There are some bizarre descriptions where it come to people; eyes like magic flashbulbs, vibrating breasts and skin like the ocean. I think I can safely say it's a man book as each female character gets their breasts described too (although they don't all vibrate). I'm not entirely convinced about Maier's drink of choice; vodka and orange seems to be the realm of teenage girls if you ask me.
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3.0 out of 5 stars getting there. 16 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good balance on story vs educating the reader on the Cambodian atrocities. Kept moving the plot along though writer seemed to want to rubber neck some unbelievable things. Great feel for atmosphere. The attempts at magical realism felt weird but I fear not as intended weird. Adequate but were it not for the Cambodia visited I would have given up on Mssrs Vater and Maier long before finishing although there were some interesting moments of action with Maier. And how many times do we have to hear about how good looking is this Maier. Bit of editing for length would not have gone amiss.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Vodka Orange 6 July 2013
By Zed
This was an unusual read. It's my first experience of Exhibit A, and they've definitely hit me up with something unique and unexpected. It's a million miles away from anything I've encountered in crime fiction before.

So, first off the bat it gets points for originality. Although there are a fair few comparisons to be drawn with Alex Garland's The Beach, this one eventually veers off in a completely different direction and fully earns its "Unique" badge by the end.

The main issue I had with The Cambodian Book of the Dead was the fact that it reads, for about 50% of the time, more like a travel guide/history title than fiction. I think for readers who have a connection to, or specific interest in Cambodia this will be absolute heaven, but for your average common or garden crime fan I'd hazard the opinion that this is going to drag in places. In fact, for me, the entire first half of the novel, although well-written, felt laggy and frustrating. If it hadn't been a review copy I doubt I would have finished it. I would've missed out if that had been the case because it does pick up massively in the second half, and the last 25% of the novel is full-on action and intrigue all the way. And there were some lovely touches thrown in, none of which I'm going to spoil for you. Except, I will own up to the fact that the girl assassins terrified me. We're talking actual nightmares. *Shudder*.

For me, Maier doesn't have enough in terms of character to make me want to read any further into the series. When I think of him, the first thing I think is "Vodka Orange", and the second is "History lesson". Neither really worked for me, and nor did the book as a whole. As I mentioned above though, if travel and history are your bag you'll find plenty to enjoy here. It just wasn't for me.
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