Cambodia Noir: A Novel

Cambodia Noir: A Novel

by Nick Seeley


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501106088
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 03/15/2016
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.30(d)

About the Author

Nick Seeley is an international journalist based over the past decade in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy Magazine, Middle East Report, and Traveler’s Tales, among others. His fiction and criticism has been published in Strange Horizons. He is originally from Fairfax, Virginia. Cambodia Noir is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Cambodia Noir

  • Airports kill me.

    I need to stop thinking about Paris, which is close to impossible at the best of times. But in the farthest wing of Frankfurt terminal, a couple of hours before dawn, as I’m waiting for a plane to carry me away to a city whose name I cannot properly pronounce . . . well, it’s a terrible place to be alone with one’s thoughts. The lights went dim sometime after two, taking the incessant chatter of Sky News with them, so I have no way of knowing quite what time it is. It feels like the heat’s gone, too, and I’m sitting wrapped like a bonbon in souvenir scarves, scribbling nonsense.

    For the first hour or so I kept my eyes closed and tried to picture beautiful things: the quiet terraces of Machu Picchu at dawn, or the minarets of Istanbul from the window of a descending plane. But all I could see were the catacombs, with their walls of silent skulls and femurs. In the air-conditioned chill, I felt like I was still down there, rubbing elbows with six million Parisian dead. It was peaceful. No war or massacre filled these halls with bones: they were carted here at night to clear out the city’s teeming cemeteries. In one spot, where the remains didn’t quite reach the low ceiling, someone had installed electric lamps on a wire, so you could see how far back the charnel house went: row upon row upon row, under glowing bulbs that swept into the dark like the lights of the Vincent Thomas Bridge. . . .

    That’s when I smelled it: that perfume, like copper and roses, saturating the air around me, and my eyes snapped open. There was no one there, of course: just an airport, scented with nothing but industrial-strength cleanser and heartbreaking loneliness.

    I have to think about something else!

    Write something. Anything . . . eeny-meeny-miney-moe . . .

    Keeping this journal is supposed to . . . I don’t know, make me aware or mindful or something. These days I’m not certain that’s such a good idea. A lot of my life would be better off forgotten. Perhaps I can find a certain ink that will fade, slowly, into the cream of the paper, taking all my history with it. Or just a marker: I can be like the post office girls in the war, inking out indiscretions from soldiers’ mash notes and love letters. My diary will read like the NSA’s Greatest Hits: page after page of neat black lines.

    I’ve written things here I’ve never said out loud, things I’ve barely dared to think. Surely I could put down why I had to leave Paris?

    But you would just think I was being ridiculous. Someday you’ll read this, laughing, shaking your head at the silly girl you used to be. You’ll wrack your brain, totally unable to imagine where you were when you wrote it, or what you might have been thinking.

    Isn’t that what I’m hoping for, really, as I fill these blank pages? They hold the promise of that day: when I will be long gone, and you will have forgotten what it’s like to be haunted.

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