Sunday, 9 October 2016

Ghost Money by Andrew Nette

Ghost Money by Andrew Nette
Published by Crime Wave Press in May 2015.

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How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Cambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of the unstable government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessmen 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 a Cambodian 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 an elegantly plotted noir mystery which I enjoyed reading partly to learn the fate of missing entrepreneur Charles Avery, but mainly because of Nette's descriptions and understanding of Cambodia and its people. I read Theary Seng's memoir, Daughter Of The Killing Fields earlier this year so had some understanding of the complicated political situation in the Khmer Rouge regime's aftermath. This novel reinforced and added to my knowledge, but without my feeling as though I was being taught. Ghost Money is first and foremost a crime novel, but with Cambodian history and customs cleverly entwined around the narrative in a very natural way.

Nette's Cambodia of twenty years ago is far removed from the tourist photos I see online today. His characters are washed-up ex-pats, most with as many psychological problems as the traumatised Cambodians they live among and use. We see seedy bars and brothels, run-down hotels and, in one particularly memorable scene, a flimsy shanty town that is home to many. I liked the breadth of environments we took in and appreciated interesting cameo characters like Bloom, Fenton and Hazard. Quinlan's dual heritage adds great depth to his character and I found him to be much more than the standard crime fiction Private Investigator. Cambodian Sarin is more difficult to get to know, but their partnership has a believable dynamic. Ghost Money is a fascinating portrait of a country on the cusp of change and one, like my recent Sierra Leone and Syria reads, where the population have experienced such extremes of violence that the question of how they will cope with peace cannot easily be answered.

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Books by Andrew Nette / Crime fiction / Books from Australia