Jennifer S. Alderson’s extensive travel experiences shine through in her novel, “Down and Out in Kathmandu”. Her descriptive passages effectively paint contrasting images of posh hotels, gourmet restaurants, and exotic tourist destinations against a backdrop of substandard hostels, seedy bars, and drug dens as we travel through Nepal with each of her main protagonists.
The story is set in Kathmandu, of course, where a volunteer teacher named Zelda—our primary protagonist—has come to teach English to a group of Nepalese students who, for all intents and purposes, speak only their native language. Zelda, who does not speak a word of the local language or have any experience teaching a language course, has been boarded with a host family who she assumes will be spending some of their time giving her basic language prompts and helping her acclimate to the local culture. But she soon discovers that, between the family’s hectic work and school schedule, she has basically been left to her own devices. On her first night in her new surroundings, Zelda meets Ian, a ne’er-do-well Australian, who hopes for nothing better in life than to travel the open road looking for a Nepalese nirvana where he can spend his days, weeks, and perhaps months languishing in a blissful drug-induced haze. With Ian bored as he tries to find what he needs to keep himself properly entertained, and Zelda thus far disillusioned by her volunteer experience, the two connect and forge a loose friendship that causes them to reunite sometime later when Ian finds himself the victim of a diamond smuggling deal gone bad. The couple is pursued by a professional diamond smuggler who is as ruthless as they come, and we follow Zelda and Ian as they attempt to escape what will surely be a grisly end!
Alderson is a master at weaving this tale, providing the reader with a hundred and one “Gasps!” as her characters dodge nefarious gangsters and run for their lives. This is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that whets one’s taste for exotic travel locations, international intrigue, and mystery. Alderson’s plot line drives this story along in a way that takes the reader through such a wild series of unexpected twists and turns, anyone would surely be left breathless and wondering, “What just happened?!”
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