“Everything was available in Shangri-La and nothing was quite what it seemed. The roof of the world, the place where the gods were meant to dwell and its heavenly city, Kathmandu, full of picturesque poverty, was becoming a commodity.”The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, by Tom Vater
I was invited to read “The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu” by Tom Vater, and although it’s not the type of book I would normally read, I was drawn to the description of a group of friends traveling to Kathmandu along the so-called hippie trail, of a drug deal gone wrong, and a setting in a part of the world I have never visited.
The book moves back and forth between two time points, beginning in 1976 with four young friends traveling on a dilapidated bus towards what they hope will be a lucrative drug deal in Pakistan. Friends Dan, Tim and Fred have traveled together across Europe, picking up Frenchman Thierry en route. But it quickly becomes clear that the people they are dealing with have their own agendas, and things go very badly wrong very quickly.
Jumping forward in time to 2000 we meet Robbie, son of Dan, who is on his own pilgrimage to Nepal, drawn there by his father’s clear love for the country instilled in him since childhood. The 70s seem a long time ago, but when Dan receives an email from Fred, who has been missing since the events of 1976, claiming to have the fortune they made from the drug deal, the events of that fateful trip begin to have present day consequences.
Author Tom Vater is described as working predominantly in Asia, and as well as fiction has been a travel writer. And it is clear from his writing that he has both a deep knowledge and a great love for the environments he describes in this book, from “wild and devout and timeless” Afghanistan to the “ice-covered peaks” around Kathmandu. Although the plot is action-packed and fast-paced, the book also includes some almost peaceful passages describing the landscape and the people that live there, which were a pleasure to read.
“Border towns are usually on the periphery of our vision. We arrive not to arrive but to continue. Some of us choose not to get off the bus and miss these places that are not quite within the laws of any place. It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Border towns prove it.”The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, by Tom Vater
Although not my usual genre of book, this was a page-turner and I would recommend it to thriller fans. Many thanks to the author for providing me with a eBook copy to read and review.