K T Medina
The White Crocodile is judgement: Battambang, Cambodia. Teenage mothers are disappearing from villages around the minefields, while others are being found mutilated and murdered, their babies abandoned. And there are whispers about the White Crocodile, a mythical beast that brings death to all who meet it.
The White Crocodile is fate: Tess Hardy thought she had put Luke, her violent husband, firmly in her past. Until he calls from Cambodia, where he is working as a mine-clearer, and there's something in his voice she hasn't heard before. Fear. Two weeks later, he's dead. Against her better judgment, Tess is drawn to Cambodia and to the killing fields.
The White Crocodile is death: Caught in a web of secrets and lies that stretches all the way from Cambodia to another murder in England, and a violent secret twenty years old, Tess must find out the truth, and quickly - because the crocodile is watching . . .
This is a really strong debut from K T Medina.
The damaged but dogged Tess Hardy is the young ex-army woman (she served five years with the Royal Engineers, including mine-clearing tours in Afghanistan) who travels to Cambodia, despite knowing little about the place, to take a mine-clearing job with a humanitarian charity. This comes about after Tess receives a phone call from a voice from her past. Her abusive, controlling ex-partner Luke called her from Battambang in Cambodia where he was working as a mine-clearer. He sounded scared, unusually so, and two weeks later, would be dead after an explosion. Suspecting this wasn’t an accident Tess finds herself investigating his death.
Once in Cambodia Tess is welcomed into a county with a troubled, violent past and an oppressive heat, but there’s much more to concern her. One of her colleagues, Johnny, suffers an accident in the minefield and is badly injured. Tess suspects foul play. Alone in her investigations she soon suspects that the region is harbouring other crimes amid some strange beliefs.
Teenage mothers are going missing from the villages surrounding the minefields of Cambodia. Some are found, gruesomely mutilated and murdered, their abandoned babies by their side. Local superstition has the White Crocodile to blame; a mythical creature that means death for all who encounter it.
There’s another brutal murder, this time of a prostitute back in the criminal underworld of Manchester, England, and the story moves from Cambodia and back, involving a twenty year old secret of violence.
Traumatised by her own domestic abuse, Tess Hardy is emotionally vulnerable but smart and brave; a heroine whose present has her in peril but whose journey provides strength.
White Crocodile is a story of violence and revenge set against a backdrop of mine clearance in a war damaged and deprived region, and, closer to home, issues of trafficking and prostitution. These two stories eventually come together via a compelling fast-paced narrative.
The West's exploitative attitude to a country still recovering from a bloody, barbaric conflict is well handled in this original and exciting book with twists and turns aplenty. Gripping to the end.
K T Medina:
Whilst doing a first degree in Psychology, K. T. Medina joined the Territorial Army, where she spent five years, ending up as a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers. She has worked in publishing, as Managing Editor, Land Based Weapon Systems, at Jane’s Information Group, as a strategy consultant and as a lecturer at The London School of Economics. She now writes full time.
K T Medina’s first novel, a thriller set in the land mine fields of northern Cambodia, was be published by Faber and Faber in 2014.