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Mysterious disappearances, danger, and death converge against the exotic backdrop of post–Khmer Rouge Cambodia in Medina’s debut effort.

Medina, a former member of the British armed forces, takes her alter ego, Tess Hardy, to the jungles of Cambodia, where impoverished villagers live in fear of a killer they call the White Crocodile. Tess has enlisted with the MCT, a charitable mine-clearing agency that rids the fields of some of the thousands of mines left behind by the Khmer Rouge, who slaughtered countless Cambodians. But Tess didn’t really go to Cambodia to clear mines: she came to find out what happened to her former husband, Luke. Cruel and abusive during their marriage, Luke left a cryptic message for Tess before his death, and although she was relieved to be out of the marriage, she still wants to know the truth about him. When Johnny, another mine cleaner, is badly injured in an explosion, Tess goes back to the field and finds a second, more deadly mine had also been planted. Even though it failed to explode, she realizes that someone or something is murdering both villagers and mine clearners. Meanwhile, in Manchester, England, two detectives—Wessex and Viles—are probing the death of a young woman whose body was found in the woods. The book takes place over eight consecutive days, and Medina weaves together the two different, but interconnected, stories. The book’s real plus is the peek it allows into a world few Westerners see: the ravaged society the Khmer Rouge left behind in Cambodia, with rampant poverty and hunger, as well as the dangerous, deadly job assigned to mine cleaners. Medina struggles the most in the book’s beginning and end. The story’s early pages are confusing, as if it took time for the author to gain traction, while the final pages suffer from the opposite problem and come off a bit rushed.

A heart-rending look at a culture decimated by the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge.

Pub Date: June 30th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-316-37400-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2015


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