BOOK CLUB: Beyond Year Zero

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Beyond Year Zero by Lawrence Held is a tantalizing debut fiction novel in the crime, thriller, and culture sub-genres.

Australian investigative journalist Carl Meissner finds himself unemployed over his reporting of a paedophile scandal involving a prominent Sydney judge. When a wealthy Sydney businessman approaches Carl to travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to find his missing twin brother Danny Goldman he accepts the job.

Little does Carl know he will be exposed to Cambodia’s dark underworld of greed, drugs, bureaucratic evil, and sexual exploitation. As a foreigner, will he get the answers he seeks and find Danny, or will he get more than he bargained for?

Held paints a gorgeous and dynamic picture of Cambodia as an atmospheric backdrop to this dark and dangerous suspenser. It is a country rich in cultural heritage with its ancient temples and traditions but also holds a dark side.

This was a thriller that spun a deep web of mystery for its protagonist and readers to get lost in together. The twists in the tale are timed flawlessly to shake up the narrative whenever we come close to feeling secure in what we thought was happening. 

Readers can make a strong emotional connection to the tough but sensitive Carl Meissner as we learn about the past.  His development is impeccable, and the author succeeded in displaying his actions and emotions. You can feel when he is lost and feeling the pressure of being overwhelmed by his surroundings. 

The supporting cast of characters are well drawn, and readers will certainly be able to engage with them. The descriptions are evocative and vivid enough to make you feel like you know them whether it be love or hate.  

Lawrence Held has done a great job providing an intriguing read that also educates the reader on the issues in some of the higher echelons of Cambodia — society, politics, and the underworld forces. Shocking, chilling and highly readable, fans of crime fiction, and gritty mystery are sure to be compelled to read this novel from cover to cover. 

The saddest aspect of the story is that there are children and people all over the world who are being trafficked across borders for various reasons to be abused and have their lives ruined by monsters who have no regard for human life. The author is to be congratulated on tackling a diversity of difficult issues and doing it well. 

The title and cover image will grab the reader’s curiosity quickly. The more you examine this cover, the more it draws you in. 

The author’s highly unique and interesting voice is certainly a promising one in this genre and I’m looking forward to his next novel.  I highly recommend it.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Beyond Year Zero by Lawrence Held. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

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7 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Beyond Year Zero

  1. Thank you allowing me to read this book. At first, I thought it may be a “man’s” book however once I got into it, I realised it would suit anyone who is a crime devotee.
    It had some harrowing and sad parts to it.
    I will certainly look out for more of Lawrence Held’s books

  2. Beyond Year Zero is a gripping crime thriller.

    Carl Meissner , 32,unemployed, investigative journalist is hired to find a wealthy Sydney businessman’s missing brother who was last seen in Cambodia.

    Carl is drawn into Cambodia’s underworld of child pornography, human organ trafficking, political corruption, incest and drugs.

    So many secrets, so many lies…….can he trust anyone at all!
    You are drawn in to this world, wondering will Carl make it out alive.

    Not my usual style of book, but I rather liked Carl and the suspense and mystery kept me engaged.

  3. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the offer to review Beyond Year Zero by Lawrence Held.

    The book centres around 32 year old Australian journalist Carl Meissner who at the time is unemployed because of one of the subjects he reported on. in the past. A Sydney business man contacts Carl and wants him to help find his brother who is missing in Cambodia. When they get to Cambodia it is a seedy journey to find him. They are faced with everything from organ trafficking right through to child pornography which is more than Carl expected.

    I enjoyed reading this book even though some subjects were difficult to read. I think it gives a good insight to the underbelly of Cambodia. It was well written and I liked how we got a background of Carl.

  4. Carl Meissner may not be the most likable character, but he will do the job he has been hired for the only way he can.
    Contacted by a wealthy family, unemployed investigative journalist Carl is asked to locate and bring home the missing brother, thought to be caught up in a pedophile ring related to the reason Carl became unemployed and current whereabouts is somewhere in Cambodia. What does Carl have to lose, the money is good and his family and work life had blown up.
    Delve into the darker side of that portrayed in Phnom Penh Cambodia, which goes beyond sex, drugs and child pornography. This crime thriller has a title that says little for what to expect in the book, which only draws you in and once in, it is hard to not want to find out what happens next, will there be a happy ending, can anyone be saved, including Carl?
    Thank you to Beauty & Lace for the chance to change up the pace with this dark (enticing) read

  5. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Beyond Year Zero by Lawrence Held.

    I absolutely loved this exciting book!!

    Carl is an investigative journalist and has been tasked with finding a rich brother in Cambodia.

    Cambodia is a dangerous place and Carl goes into the underworld of child pornographers, human organs trafficking, drugs and prostitution to find Danny Goldman.

    This book will make you laugh and sometimes want to throw up.

    Looking forward to his next read.

    Fantastic read!! Highly recommended ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  6. Beyond Year Zero is not for the faint hearted. It contains child pornography, human organ trafficking and cannibalism in Cambodia. These topics can be very confronting throughout.

    Carl Meissner is employed to find a rich businessman’s twin brother, Danny. He sets off to Cambodia and is faced with all the mess, drugs, prostitution and corruption. Carl doesn’t have an easy time at all.

    This book is captivating and educational in just how dark the underworld can be.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Big Sky Publishing for my copy to read and review.

  7. This is a crime novel that I felt fell short of its’ intentions. The somewhat confused plot is difficult for the reader to follow, and there are few – if any – characters with enough depth for the reader to empathise with. Important issues and a vivid background get lost behind these issues.

    Carl Meissner is a journalist who was fired in the wake of his reporting of a paedophile scandal involving a prominent Sydney judge. He’s now attempting to write a novel. However, wealthy Joe Goldman approaches him and offers him a great deal of money to travel to Cambodia in search of Joe’s missing twin brother.

    Carl accepts with surprising alacrity. It’s not really clear if he has any motivation beyond the money. However, when he reaches Cambodia, he finds that things are far more complicated than Joe implied.

    To be honest, I found much of the plot confused. There was too much going on, people weren’t acting in ways that made sense (even in retrospect, when their motivations were explained), and even the explanations of some plot points were difficult to follow. The main ones were clear enough – even telegraphed well in advance in some cases – but others were a bit murky.

    This was compounded by my lack of interest in any of the characters. We only know surface things about Carl. I didn’t feel we knew him in any depth, and his illogical behaviour seemed to have no explanation. Later in the novel, as Carl begins to fall apart, it doesn’t work. We don’t have a strong enough sense of the original Carl to really care about the changes – or even be certain they are changes.

    In the early part of the novel, set in Australia, there is a nice noir flavour to the writing. Some of the imagery is particularly strong, and I was enjoying the tone. Unfortunately, once the action moves to Cambodia, this flavour is lost. After that I found the writing more run of the mill.

    Overall, I didn’t enjoy this novel a lot. The writer clearly had a solid familiarity with Cambodia, painting a vivid picture of some areas. However, he didn’t seem to have much of a grasp on his plot or characters. There are stacks of excellent crime novels out there: I’d struggle to recommend this one in comparison.

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