A based-on-fact thriller about escaping from captivity in a Cambodian hellhole.
The CIA–connected Italian agent code-named Kasper sits in Prey Sar, a Cambodian prison, because he's been investigating the widespread use of “supernotes.” These are counterfeit $100 bills, printed in Asia, which are virtually perfect. There is an enormous quantity of supernotes in circulation, and they are the “currency of choice for opium, heroin, and much else.” Kasper is badly beaten by rubber-coated pipes and is hardly able to stand, so “his only battle is to stay alive.” In an attempt to gain his release, his family hires Roman attorney Barbara Belli, who realizes “her client had not been arrested; he’d been kidnapped.” Kasper’s ailing mother sends virtually all of her money for bribes to gain his release or at least to keep him alive. (Such a shame she couldn’t just use supernotes.) Italian diplomats join in the effort to help him, but Belli learns Kasper isn’t the kind of person who inspires crusades in his defense. Luckily, one Cambodian guard is a decent man who brings Kasper medicine and clean water. After more than a year in captivity, he plans a bold escape—but nothing is simple. The final resolution feels anticlimactic after events that include waterboarding, scheming, and a brutal fight with a cellmate. But none of this deters the 50-year-old Kasper, who has been “in a constant bath of foaming adrenaline” for 30 years. A friend advises Kasper that the “will to power” can get him killed, that he must be careful with the people closest to him, and that “what you buy with supernotes is a ticket to hell.”
This translation from Italian is a fast, exciting read inspired by a real agent who risked his life combatting the problem of counterfeiting on an international scale.