Thursday, August 30, 2012
Review of Ghost Money by Andrew Nette (Snubnose Press, 2012)
Andrew Nette spent a number of years in Cambodia as a journalist in the 1990s and it shows. The real strength of Ghost Money is the sense of place and historical contextualisation. Nette drops the reader into the landscape, culture and politics of the country, without it dominating the story, and one gets a real sense of what ordinary people have been through during various regimes and the unsettled legacy they now find themselves in. And he does a good job at detailing how an outsider such as Quinlan negotiates this complex terrain. The story itself is a relatively standard search for a missing person who doesn’t want to be found and has got themselves into a situation they can’t handle. The plot unfolds with some twists and turns as Quinlan homes in on his target, despite the various threats and warnings given to him. There were a couple of things that didn’t seem to quite sit right, however. The first was Quinlan’s naivety - he was an experienced ex-cop, yet he wanders into really dangerous situations with no real forethought. The second was motivation - I couldn’t understand why Quinlan was willing to risk his life to find Avery, a man he has no connection to or affinity with other than he was hired to the job, and why he didn’t just walk away. In general, the characterisation is fine, though Quinlan and the other central actors were somewhat skin deep, their back story substituting for personality and character at times. Other than those quibbles, the story rattles along as a real page-turner. Overall, an entertaining and informative story that gives a real sense of Cambodia in the mid-1990s.