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2013 Mar 13 Book Review: Nothing Gained, Phillip Kim

Look familiar? Hong Kong's CBD is the setting of the latest thriller from Penguin China

“Write what you know,” goes the old bit of advice from Mark Twain. After more than twenty years as an investment banker in Asia, author Phillip Kim knows finance, and his debut novel, Nothing Gained, is his first shot at turning his insider knowledge into an international thriller. Kim is discussing his debut at the Bookworm Literary Festival this Saturday (Mar 16)and it was just announced that Penguin China will be celebrating the book's launch with an open bar at the event. This deal is getting to good to be true. Let's get to the review:

Nothing Gained begins with the drowning of a golden boy banker in Hong Kong, and follows his widow, friends, and associates as they deal with the fallout from the dead man’s unfinished business and illicit secrets. Within weeks of her husband's death, Cheryl, the banker’s widow, must bid farewell to her pampered housewife routine of yoga lessons and ladies’ luncheons. With the help of her husband's former colleague, she takes up seedy dealings with Indonesian thugs, ex-spies, and slimy casino moguls in order to protect herself and her children. As only the wealthy can do, Cheryl and those close to her spend the following months snagging last-minute flights and five-star hotel rooms in a frantic, globe-hopping race against dangerous men and their demands for money.

Kim’s newspaper-like narration of key emotional moments, paired with his obsessive descriptions of the novel's luxurious settings and status symbols, can keep the reader from growing attached to the book's main characters. Still, Nothing Gained’s tense, twisting plot and the constant threat of botched deals and impatient villains make for a thriller with tons of page-turner potential. Readers of Nothing Gained may not gain a real insider's view of high-stakes Asian banking, but Kim gives us a gripping, glitzy, sexed-up take on an industry most think of as dreary.

Phillip Kim will be appearing at the Bookworm Literary Festival to discuss "Nothing Gained" on Saturday, March 16, at 6pm.

Photos: The Bookworm, Asiasociety.org

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Justin Torres's debut novel, We The Animals, tells the story of a young boy and his brothers growing up in a chaotic, cross-cultural household in upstate New York. Torres will speak about the role of identity in literature as part of the BLF's "Big Question: Who Do You Think You Are?" panel on Monday, March 18, 6pm. He'll also hold a discussion about his novel on Sunday, March 17, 8pm and speak on the "Queer Voices in Literature" panel on Monday, March 18, 11:30am. Here are Justin's selections:

Smile often and wear a big hood. Is that what it takes to make it as a travel writer? Novelist, poet, and travel author Sophie Cooke will be at this year's Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday, March 17, 2pm, to tell all you aspiring guidebook authors and Theroux wannabes how to write (and get paid) for your travel tales. In the meantime, here are her top five tips for travelers. Hint: Make sure you land in the right country.

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Australian scholar Pam Macintyre will be speaking at BLF 2013 on the "Forever Young (Adult)" panel on Tuesday, March 19, 6pm. She is an expert on children’s and young adult literature and teaches language and literacy at the University of Melbourne.

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Ambelin Kwaymullina hails from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She's been the recipient of many awards and her works include Crow and the Waterhole, Caterpillar and Butterfly, and How Frogmouth Found Her Home. She will be at BLF 2013 to discuss her first book, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, on Wednesday, March 20, 10am