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After learning of the horrific crossbreeding experiments conducted by the Khmer Rouge during the '70s—and the international conspiracy of silence that surrounds those experiments still—a female archaeologist and male photographer have their lives threatened and their sanity questioned.

Globetrotting young British photographer Jake Thurby is hoping to make a name for himself when he accepts a job from Chemda Tek, a beautiful and mysterious American-educated Cambodian investigating Khmer atrocities. American archaeologist Julia Kerrigan hopes the strange set of perforated skulls she uncovers at a dig in remote southern France will make her reputation. Several grotesque murders, horrendous acts of sorcery and bizarre sexual attacks later, the protagonists team up to confront the grisly truth. Told in cliffhanger style, one narrative interrupting the other at the most crucial moments, the book will do no favors for the tourist trade in Southeast Asia. Only Jake, who after falling for Chemda gets chased through the rugged terrain of Cambodia and Laos, has any reason to hang around. Knox (real name: Sean Thomas) has traveled this path before in The Marks of Cain (2010, etc.). If he recognizes the riotous absurdity of depressed, brain-drilled ape-men giving in to their animal desires, he doesn't let on. The book features two such attacks. Pure potboiler, with a little commentary about America's inconsistency in Southeast Asia sprinkled in, the book begins entertainingly enough but can't overcome its debt to Island of Lost Souls.

Knox does shed some light on actual "hybridization" experiments ordered by Stalin, among other leaders. In the end, the Khmer massacres are too enormous in their inhumanity to function as the backdrop for a thriller.




Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-670-02318-9
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2011


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