Title: The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu by Tom Vater
Genre: Crime, Thriller
In 1976, four friends – Dan, Fred, Tim and Thierry – are on a bus along the hippie trail from London to Kathmandu. But everything is not going according to plan.
After a drug deal goes wrong, the boys barely escape with their lives. Thousands of kilometers, numerous acid trips, accidents, nightclubs and a pair of beautiful Siamese twins later, they finally reach the counter-culture capital of the world, Kathmandu, and Fred disappears with the drug money.
A quarter-century later, mysterious emails invite the other three to pick up their share of the money, and they decide to reunite in Kathmandu. Soon, a trail of kidnapping and murder leads them across the Roof of the World.
With the help of Dan’s backpacking son, a tattooed lady and a Buddhist angel, the ageing hippies try to solve a 25-year old mystery that takes them amongst Himalayan peaks, and towards the inevitable showdown with their past.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
As many of my long-term readers will see, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu isn’t my usually genre as I don’t particular enjoy many crime or thriller novels unless there is an added horror, paranormal or strange element to it. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that The Devil’s Road was a refreshingly different take on the norms of the crime genre as it moves well away from the standards of the crime genre, appealing to me and my need for quirky and strange books. Vater’s writing was also a cut above most other crime writers who prose seems generic and little weak compared to Vater’s storytelling.
The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu opens in 1976 in Pakistan on the hippie trail, the hippie trail goes overland from Europe to India and further. Many people in a certain age bracket may remember similar pilgrimages that thousands of Westerns took including this one. We are follow Dan and his two friends who leave London in an old Bedford bus, picking up many people along the way including Thierry, a Parisian who joins the group. What follows after is a wild ride filled with sex, drugs and complete abandon but the highs comes with some real lows to including death. The narration alternates between the foursome in 1976 and 2000, where the foursome are meeting once more in Kathmandu with the addition of Dan’s son, Robbie. What I thought was going to be a standard crime road trip ended up being much more as the land itself is a character within the novel. However, the end did scream more Hollywood than Kathmandu, I trusted the direction in which Vater chose to take the novel. He spins a great story filled with intelligence and a certain poetry while immersing you in Asia and with the recent lockdowns I felt it was the perfect book to escape into.
The highlights of the novel for mew ere the unique and crazy characters as well as Vater’s keen eye for details. Vater definitely utilizes impressive descriptions coupled with believable and realistic dialogue to create an atmosphere that completely sucks you in from the very beginning. At times you really feel like you are inside the novel, drinking beside the characters and I am really sad to be leaving it so soon. Many will notice that I have avoided my usual spoiler filled review as it feel it will destroy the magic and atmosphere that Vater creates but all I can say is that The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu definitely isn’t your average crime novel as it is full of twists I didn’t see coming. Highly recommended especially if you are looking for something a little different during the Halloween season.
About the Author:
Tom Vater is an Asia-based writer.
He has published some 20 books – four novels, nonfiction, illustrated books and guidebooks, all on Asian subjects.
Tom has written four crime fiction novels. The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu – the third English language edition out with Next Chapter out now – is a travel thriller set on the 70s hippie trail between London and Kathmandu. A Spanish translation is out with ExploraEditorial.
The Detective Maier trilogy – The Cambodian Book of the Dead, The Man with the Golden Mind and the The Monsoon Ghost Image, a Southeast Asia series of novels follows the exploits of a former conflict journalist turned private eye.
Tom has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Telegraph, the Nikkei Asian Review and many other publications. He co-authored Sacred Skin – Thailand’s Spirit Tattoos (2011), a notable bestseller. He is also co-author of several documentary screenplays, including The Most Secret Place on Earth (2008), a feature on the CIA’s covert war in Laos in the 60s and 70s.
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I received this copy for review consideration from Blackthorn Book Tours.