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Formats
Paperback Details
  • 12/2015
  • 978-1-519365-90-3
  • 226 pages
  • $10.99
Ebook Details
  • 12/2015
  • 978-1-519365-90-3
  • 226 pages
  • $2.99
Jennifer S. Alderson
Author
Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

Zelda wants to teach children English and “find herself” in Kathmandu. Ian wants to get stoned and trek the Himalayas. Tommy wants to get rich by smuggling diamonds. How their stories collide will leave you on the edge of your seat!

Travel from the dusty, tout-filled streets and holy sites of Nepal to the sultry metropolises and picture-perfect beaches of Thailand, as Zelda and Ian try to outsmart the smugglers and escape Asia alive.

This fast-paced, thrilling travel mystery set in Nepal and Thailand is sure to captivate readers thirsty for some armchair adventure. Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery is the perfect book for lovers of dark humor, backpacker fiction and (mis)adventure novels.

This novel is a PREQUEL to the amateur sleuth mysteries Zelda gets involved with in the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series.

Reviews
The Displaced Nation (reviewed by Beth Green)

Before I sign off for this month, a book I’d like to mention to any readers thirsting for some armchair adventure is Displaced Nationer and current expat Jennifer S. Alderson’s Down and Out in Kathmandu, which came out at the end of last year and was in my to-be-read pile for 2016.

The first in a planned series of international thrillers, the book introduces us to protagonist Zelda Richardson, a burnt-out Seattle-based computer programmer who is heading to Nepal for a volunteer teaching gig.

Teaching English in Nepal is nothing like Zelda expects—relationships with her host families are fraught, facilities are limited and the students are less than impressed with Zelda herself. While struggling to deal with the strange culture and her unruly classroom, she crosses paths with Ian, an Australian backpacker who is on a teaching sabbatical and simply searching for the best weed he can find.

And then, of course, as often happens when you link up with backpackers, Zelda finds herself entangled with an international gang of smugglers who believe she and Ian have stolen their diamonds. They also cross paths with Tommy, a shady Canadian in Thailand…

Alderson’s next Zelda book, The Lover’s Portrait, is set in Amsterdam and is due out at the end of next month.

TripFiction member review (jnalpath)

This story has a great female lead and an exotic setting. Jennifer Alderson created an interesting character, Zelda Richardson. We all can relate to her in our own lives. Zelda gets in over her head by volunteering to teach English in Nepal. She is idealistic, courageous, and down to earth. She tries to make the best out of the situation, gets frustrated and grows along the way. I was completely immersed in the country of Nepal. The images were vividly concocted in my mind. I wanted to visit Nepal to see the sights and try the food. I was so swept up in the novel that I want to read Zelda’s continuing adventures in the next book. This book drew me in because it was set in Nepal. I learned alot and would like to visit someday. I recommend reading this title.

TripFiction.com (reviewed by Tina)

Three strong characters appear in this novel, Zelda, Ian and Tommy. How their paths cross is part of the storyline’s progression and the reader is kept guessing until the end.

Zelda is from Canada, has stepped off the work treadmill for a while, and opted to join a charitable scheme for a few weeks based in Nepal, teaching local children. Her accommodation is provided and she is soon, somewhat uncomfortably, ensconced with her family. She had hoped for authentic lodgings, with thangkas on the wall, and other local paraphernalia to colour her life, but sadly she finds herself in a bit of a concrete jungle.

She is not a natural traveller (she the silly carefree tourist of the title) and finds her bile rising as she succumbs to scams. Teaching is not her natural forte, consequently she finds herself challenged on more fronts than she can tolerate. She is also focussed on comparisons between home and Nepal, and although she tries to catch herself doing it, she does stray into the territory of the whinger. And a whinging tourist doesn’t make for an edifying read.

Ian has taken a break from teaching in Australia, is a bit of a pothead, and he is a fast worker as he has grown his hair into dreadlocks especially for this adventure. Needless to say he gets himself into some scrapes along the way.

Tommy is based in Thailand – a bit of a surprise bearing in mind the title – and a fair proportion of the story takes place there. He is an unlikeable waster, who thinks he has an eye for the girls, but is an insecure pretend playboy. An insufferable buffoon, basically.

All three in their different ways take on gangland mobsters, and this is where the story becomes a little implausible. Amateur travellers take on big time gangsters. Goons and henchmen abound and ‘the boys in blue” also get a look-in. It is in the latter half of the book that the competent writing at the start begins to wane, and annoying typos creep in – is body order the same as body odour, I wondered? If not, what is it? “what a second, should, I imagine, be wait a second and a sentence like “..taking him for a fool just like him mom” left me scrabbling for the sense. The Khao San Road morphs into the Kho San Road and whether the sentence “it was the same day she’d gone on a hike with Ganesh the other volunteers in the Kathmandu Valley..” is missing punctuation, a word or simply features a typo, I am not sure. More than a couple of errors can rather impact on the reading experience. It is imperative, always, as an author to engage the services of a reputable proof reader.

Interestingly the author has chosen to have the content type set to the left. Books are usually (just check any random book on your shelf) centred and there is a reason for this. The eye, as it skims across the text from one side to the other, needs the regular straight boundary at the edge of the block text, both left and right. However, when the eye has to keep searching out the end of the line, the fluidity is jarred and the reading experience is impaired. It becomes a ragged read rather than smooth flowing and pleasurable.

The locale is certainly hot and steamy and successfully brings to life the trip Zelda undertakes in the company of her guide, Khamel, to, for example, Swayambhunath Monkey Temple – this outing is well rendered (the temple was sadly damaged in the Nepal Earthquake of 25 April, 2015). Kathmandu really doesn’t come across as an easy place. Money is the main language and Zelda finds herself preoccupied with the dirt and squalor.

Finally to the cover. Block colours are often shorthand for a manual rather than a novel. “Adventures in Backpacking” which appears under the main orange title is pretty much lost, as black on dark blue simply doesn’t stand out sufficiently clearly. Nor am I sure that the composition works – is the main image a stupa? And  what of those rather beady orange eyes looking out at the potential reader? They left me feeling a bit creeped out. I think I would also find it irritating, as an author, that the cover artwork isn’t centred, that there is more red background on the right than on the left…. but hey, each to their own about what is acceptable and what isn’t…

This book is however a reasonably solid read, and if some of the content issues are addressed in the next print run, then it is worthy of a good 3.75* book to take to Kathmandu because it does convey the venal, buzzy feel of the city.

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 12/2015
  • 978-1-519365-90-3
  • 226 pages
  • $10.99
Ebook Details
  • 12/2015
  • 978-1-519365-90-3
  • 226 pages
  • $2.99

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