Friday 22 February 2013



Cambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of an unstable coalition government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan.

But Avery has made dangerous enemies and Quinlan is not the only one looking. Teaming up with Heng Sarin, a local journalist, Quinlan’s search takes him from the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle scarred western borderlands. As the political temperature soars, he is slowly drawn into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia’s bloody past.

Ghost Money is a crime novel, but it’s also about Cambodia in the mid-nineties, a broken country, and what happens to people who are trapped in the cracks between two periods of history, locals and foreigners, the choices they make, what they do to survive.

"Ghost Money is a fast-paced, atmospheric crime novel. Its journey into a cynical and treacherous world is tense and suspenseful." - Garry Disher

Ghost Money was a first for me. Whilst I have previously read a lot of books both fact and fiction concerning the conflict of the 60’s and 70’s in Vietnam, I never extended my reading vistas to encompass other areas of South-East Asia, although I’m not too sure how many other crime fiction books there are set in Cambodia.

Ghost Money was an eye-opener for me. Nette, with his debut novel, drags Cambodia and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge back into the daylight 30-odd years after the horrors of Pol Pot and his followers have been largely forgotten by the rest of the world.

The novel, set in Cambodia in the mid-90’s, is as much a history lesson as it is a crime novel. Nette displays empathy for the Cambodian people and the harsh brutalities that have been inflicted on them by a succession of oppressors or liberators........forced migration and genocide, American carpet bombing, Vietnamese invasion and occupation, on-going civil war, refugee camps, Soviet interest and abandonment, UN lip-service and ultimately worldwide apathy and indifference once the news reels had changed their focus and moved on.

The crime element has Quinlan, ex-cop turned PI hired to find an Australian businessman, Charles Avery. Avery, suspected of murder in Thailand is tracked by Quinlan to Phnom Penh. Quinlan enlists local and Aussie ex-pat help in his efforts to unravel Avery’s whereabouts. Avery with dodgy business dealings in gems and a fake mine has annoyed his fellow entrepreneurs. Unfortunately for Avery and now Quinlan several of these erstwhile partners have psychopathic personalities and an aversion to being played. Quinlan ends up in a battle to save himself from being added to the death toll, in a country where life is cheap and can be bought for a few dollars.

Bloody, pacey, intriguing and educational; I enjoyed this journey through Cambodia in the capable hands of the author. I’ll be keeping an eye out for his next offering whenever that comes about.

4 from 5 

I obtained a copy to review from the author himself.  

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