Title: The Devils Road to Kathmandu
Author: Tom Vader
Published by: Independently published
Publication date: January 1st 2006
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1976, four friends – Dan, Fred, Tim and Thierry – are on a bus along the hippie trail from London to Kathmandu. But everything is not going according to plan.
After a drug deal goes wrong, the boys barely escape with their lives. Thousands of kilometers, numerous acid trips, accidents, nightclubs and a pair of beautiful Siamese twins later, they finally reach the counter-culture capital of the world, Kathmandu, and Fred disappears with the drug money.
A quarter-century later, mysterious emails invite the other three to pick up their share of the money, and they decide to reunite in Kathmandu. Soon, a trail of kidnapping and murder leads them across the Roof of the World.
With the help of Dan’s backpacking son, a tattooed lady and a Buddhist angel, the ageing hippies try to solve a 25-year old mystery that takes them amongst Himalayan peaks, and towards the inevitable showdown with their past.
I was approached by Tom Vader to read The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, via Twitter. In return for an honest review. Thank you for reaching out to me and giving me a copy of your book and I hope that you find my review acceptable.
The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu is set over two different timelines, the first in 1976 following the events that occur involving four friends; Dan, Fred, Tim and, the newest member of the friendship group, Thierry. They’re on the road for the trip of a lifetime, involving a copious amount of drug-taking, women, reckless risk-taking, and smuggling. The other timeline, set in 2000, focuses primarily on Robbie, Dan’s son, embarking on a trip sharing the same destination; Kathmandu.
I found myself facing great difficulty in connecting with this book; while I took enjoyment in seeing the sights and hearing about the culture within the novel, I couldn’t really connect with the characters of their motivations. The intricacies of the overall plot were lost in the minor details of the narrative and while I reveled in some of the descriptions and scenes that took place I found the pacing of the story slow and dreary.
Author, Tom Vader, is clearly very knowledgeable when it comes to the parts of the world in which The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu is set and this shows in the confidence of stunning descriptions of the world. These descriptions left a clear image of where the characters were and what they were encountering in each of the individual places and the cultures within them. It’s given me a desire to explore these places further just to discover the beauty of them for myself.
However, I am afraid that my praise for the novel doesn’t extend any further. The lead character, Dan, felt rather one-dimensional and I struggled to understand his reasoning and motivations throughout the book. A lot of interesting events happen to and around all of the main characters, but what they experience doesn’t seem to have much of a lasting impact or effect on most of them. Everything is taken in their stride and little seems to be of any real threat to them. Their reactions come across as flat and emotionless. Maybe this is due to them being more concerned for the drugs they are taking than they are with one another? But, something didn’t quite ring true about it all.
The overall plot meandered from one scene lazily to another and while some of the events were interesting, they didn’t seem to have as much of an impact on the story as a whole; leaving me to wonder what their significance was. It left the book feeling bogged down, the flow of the ‘thriller’ plot lost in amongst scenes of meaningless drudge. What was the point of having a School Bus full of children helping out the main characters when their bus breaks down, other than being pure page-filler? A lot of the slow-paced scenes, while well written, felt out of place in the grand scheme of things.
I think, due to the lack of significance of these aspects to the novel, I found myself losing the main plot thread partway through. At times I felt relieved that I was back on the right track; usually when the timeline skips and the scenes ‘reset,’ only to lose where I was once more. I found I couldn’t really follow along as well as I should have. The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu is not a straightforward story and I struggled to follow along due to the over-abundance of ‘bloat’ and the heavy descriptions of the setting.
Towards the end of the book, there’s a twist to the story and everything seems to fall into place. Sadly, the twist is rather predictable and the ending is anti-climactic and disappointing.
The reason I didn’t DNF The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu was because I was waiting for it to get going and by the point, I realized it wasn’t leading anywhere I was already too invested to put it down; both time-wise and due to wanting to know what happened, what was going to happen and how, if anything.
Maybe it was due to my lack of interest in recreational drug use but I really struggled with this book. I found the characters one dimensional and difficult to connect with and the book riddled with elements of insignificance that bloated the story rather than added to it.