Cambodia Noir
by Nick Seeley

Overview - A Booklist Best Crime Fiction Debut of 2016

A high-octane thriller with a heart-stopping conclusion about a mysterious American woman who disappears into the Cambodian underworld, and the photojournalist who tracks her through the clues left in her diary.  Read more...

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More About Cambodia Noir by Nick Seeley
A Booklist Best Crime Fiction Debut of 2016

A high-octane thriller with a heart-stopping conclusion about a mysterious American woman who disappears into the Cambodian underworld, and the photojournalist who tracks her through the clues left in her diary.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: The end of the line. Lawless, drug-soaked, forgotten--it's where bad journalists go to die. For once-great war photographer Will Keller, that's kind of a mission statement: he spends his days floating from one score to the next, taking any job that pays; his nights are a haze of sex, drugs, booze, and brawling. But Will's spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful young woman who shows up and begs Will to help find her sister, June, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper.

There's a world of bad things June could have gotten mixed up in. The Phnom Penh underworld is in an uproar after a huge drug bust; a local reporter has been murdered in a political hit; and the government and opposition are locked in a standoff that could throw the country into chaos at any moment. Will's best clue is June's diary: an unsettling collection of experiences, memories, and dreams, reflecting a young woman at once repelled and fascinated by the chaos of Cambodia. As Will digs deeper into June's past, he uncovers one disturbing fact after another about the missing girl and her bloody family history. In the end, the most dangerous thing in Cambodia may be June herself.

Propulsive, electric, and filled with unforgettable characters, Cambodia Noir marks the arrival of a fresh new talent. Nick Seeley is an ambitious, wildly imaginative author and his enthralling debut explores what happens when we venture into dark places...when we get in over our heads...and when we get lost.

  • ISBN-13: 9781501106088
  • ISBN-10: 1501106082
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publish Date: March 2016
  • Page Count: 342
  • Dimensions: 1.25 x 6.25 x 9.25 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Suspense
Books > Fiction > Literary

BookPage Reviews

Whodunit: Next-level Scandinavian suspense

For those who admire Scandinavian suspense novels (a group of aficionados growing in leaps and bounds), here’s one well worth your consideration: Samuel Bjørk’s riveting American debut, I’m Traveling Alone. When the body of a 6-year-old Norwegian girl is found hanging from a tree, a police task force is speedily formed to investigate. Soon, three more children are found, each with a number lightly incised into a fingernail of her left hand. Mounting evidence suggests that there will be six more to come. For police investigator (and worrywart) Holger Munch, the case holds extra significance, as he has a granddaughter the same age as the victims. Retired investigator Mia Krüger has agreed (begrudingly) to assist Munch and lend her considerable investigative talents to one last case. But the villain they seek appears as something of a chameleon: Perhaps it’s the cross-dressing man with an eagle tattoo, or possibly the lovely young woman off her meds, or could it be the religious cult leader who holds acolytes underwater just a bit too long during baptism? Surprises come right up until the final chapters, and the book begs for a sequel.

T. Jefferson Parker’s thriller Crazy Blood strays far from the whodunit genre, but it’s nonetheless a must-read for his legions of fans. Although you may know “whodunit” early on, there are still plenty of revelations in store. Wylie Welborn has just returned to his hometown of Mammoth Lakes, California, after a stint in Afghanistan where he did things he won’t talk about. The Sierras should be much more tranquil than the Hindu Kush, but there are some factors that militate against that. Wylie is the black sheep of the wealthy Carson family; he’s the illegitimate son of Richard Carson, a man murdered by his jealous wife, Cynthia, on the very night of Wylie’s conception. Cynthia herself was pregnant at the time with Wylie’s half-brother, Sky. From childhood, Wylie and Sky have engaged in rivalry over everything imaginable, a drama that played out repeatedly on the ski slopes of Mammoth Mountain. Now, after a tragic skiing accident involving third brother Robert, Wylie and Sky will duel one more time, in a winner-take-all confrontation that will either save the family or tear it apart in unimaginable ways.

Donna Leon’s well-loved protagonist, Venice police Commissario Guido Brunetti, falls squarely into the “likable cop” mold, not unlike Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police, or Håkan Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren. He’s urbane, well read and well liked by family and townspeople alike. And he can be a bit of a pushover, as is the case in the latest installment of the series, The Waters of Eternal Youth. When the best friend of Brunetti’s formidable mother-in-law asks him to look into a 15-year-old unsolved attempted murder, he agrees (outwardly), while wondering just what he can hope to accomplish. But Leon is a consummate storyteller, and she doesn’t leave Brunetti foundering for long. Soon he is embroiled in one of the most troubling cases of his career, the strange story of a young girl whose (deliberate?) near-drowning left her with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. The Waters of Eternal Youth is populated with old friends (and frenemies) and is filled to the brim with insightful and often surprising observations about life in modern-day Europe.

This past December, I was in an Internet café near Angkor Wat, Cambodia, when an email arrived from my editor with a list of suspense novels available for review for March, among them Nick Seeley’s debut novel, Cambodia Noir. Kismet? I’ll leave that for greater minds than mine to decide. It ticks all the boxes that make for a capital-T Thriller: gin-soaked protagonist, self-exiled in a backwater of the Third World—check; controversial and mysterious missing girl—check; strong supporting cast of alcoholic expats, prostitutes and corrupt members of the power elite—check; drugs, assassinations and mad motor-cycle chases through pockmarked streets—check, check, check. Seeley gets Phnom Penh in the same way that John Burdett gets Bangkok, with descriptions so vivid that even if Seeley never mentioned the city by name, anyone who had ever spent time there would recognize it immediately. The thriller unfolds at a breakneck pace, with a backdrop of unrest and upheaval, and characters that blur (or totally obliterate) the lines between good and bad. Seeley impresses on every count.


This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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