The Cambodian Book of the Dead Paperback – 4 Jun 2013
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"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.
Top Customer Reviews
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?Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.