White Crocodile by K.T. Medina (Mulholland, June 30th, 2015)-Tess Hardy used to love her husband, Luke, but their love was of the obsessive kind, and Luke didn’t hesitated to beat her whenever he felt like she’d disobeyed or upset him. After Tess gets up the courage to leave, Luke heads to Cambodia to work for MCT clearing land mines. Tess doesn’t expect to hear from Luke again, but he calls her from Cambodia with what sounds like fear in his voice, and shortly after that, he’s dead. Tess heads to Cambodia to join MCT and hopefully find out what happened to Luke and soon discovers that someone, or something, is preying on young mothers, but why? The legend of the White Crocodile might have the answer, if Tess can stay alive long enough to discover it.
I love suspense set in international locales, and steamy, wild Cambodia comes to life in the author’s hands, and there’s a tangible thread of menace that builds slowly as the story goes on. There’s a killer on the loose, yes, but Tess’s job is dangerous enough. It’s delicate work, and anything can go wrong if a clearer’s concentration lapses. Tess isn’t quite sure, at first, how to go about finding out what happened to Luke, but when a fellow clearer, Johnny, is injured on the job, Tess suspects it might not have been an accident. The horrendous reality of Tess’s job, amidst a place where so many have been injured and killed by land mines, and Cambodian mythology, bolsters the serial killer aspect of the book. This is a tense, compulsively readable thriller with an intriguing protagonist (reminds me a bit of Lisa Brackmann’s Ellie McEnroe), and if you like mysteries where the setting is almost a character unto itself, you’ll enjoy this. Even though this story only takes place over the course of a week, it’s a helluva week, and there are scenes that pack a huge punh. I’ll definitely look forward to more from this author.