Book One in The Adventures of Zelda Richardson series
Overworked computer programmer Zelda Richardson is teetering on the edge of burnout.
Inspired by a girlfriend’s trip around the world, she sublets her apartment in Seattle, Washington, buys a backpack and flies to Kathmandu as a volunteer English teacher – determined to make a difference and find herself whilst doing it.
She can’t wait to immerse herself in Nepalese life – wear a Sari, eat with her right hand and wipe with her left – but becomes overwhelmed by its foreignness. Despite the power outages, lack of running water and difficulty in learning the language, she sticks it out, wanting to prove to her friends and family – but mainly to herself – that she can survive without the luxuries of home.
One distraction is the charming Ian, the sexy Australian backpacker whom she gets to know on arriving in Nepal. When her students laugh her out of the classroom and the headmaster publicly humiliates her, Zelda flees to the tourist district of Thamel to drown her sorrows with Ian.
What follows is every traveler’s nightmare as they find themselves entangled with an international gang of smugglers whose Thai leader believes Ian and Zelda have stolen their diamonds.
Can Zelda find a way to get the smugglers off their backs and her Nepalese students to respect her, before her time in Kathmandu is over?
Read what others are saying about Down and Out in Kathmandu:
4 stars: “Better than anything else I’ve read lately, this one was a joy to come back to daily. I could tell she was familiar with the area, and her writing made me feel I was there as well…
The two main characters and their connection was clearly defined, but the third, the rascal Tommy, took a little getting used to. For the longest time I wondered why he was in the book, but as you can imagine, in something well crafted it all makes sense in the end…” VINE VOICE review by Monette L. Bebow Reinhard
5 stars: “Wow. What a ride. It isn’t every day you find a book that keeps you up late and is hard to put down. Down and Out in Kathmandu was such a book.
We were all there once, young, idealistic and self-centered. Zelda, Ian, Tommy – looking for adventure and meaning, finally realizing that they were responsible for their own actions and happiness.
The story builds slowly, teasing you until the final chapters. I was holding my breath.
Definitely a 5 star read.” – author Janice J. Richardson
5 stars: “Fast paced and an easy read, and hard to put down. There were three main characters, Zelda, Ian and Tommy. I could relate to Zelda on a few different levels, her unpreparedness and not having too much of a clue. And, also the teacher part (have substituted and tutored) and taking off to a foreign country on her own. Still she managed to survive and I believe is wiser for the experience… I could easily imagine the Nepal culture, as it seemed to be similar to the Indian culture, which I’m familiar with. The author paints a good picture.” – Chris, Amazon review
4 stars: “Down and Out in Kathmandu takes the reader not only to Nepal, but also into the minds of self-centered twenty-somethings as they fumble their way toward self-discovery and perhaps a little bit of wisdom.
The author brings Nepal to life. The descriptive detail leaves no doubt that she has been there and done that, and the vivid prose takes the reader along for the ride.
The characters are brilliantly conceived. They are not necessarily likable, but they are very real. Their many flaws make them all the more relatable…
Down and Out is a fun read, and I look forward to Zelda’s next adventure!” – author Robert Krenzel
4 stars: “My second read by this author and I enjoyed it as much as the first. The characters were fully formed and their motivations were clear. I can’t say I always liked them. Zelda in particular could be surprisingly bitter and judgmental, and there were times I wanted to give her a solid smack, but that to me is good story telling. When a character seems so real you want to interact with them. Ian, the charming Australian party boy, provided a good counterpoint to Zelda. Though the mystery/thriller aspect of the story ramps up late in the novel, the author does an impressive job weaving the three seemingly disparate points of view together in the page-turning end. I would definitely read another novel from this author.” – Catherine Trizzino
5 stars: “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 plotline 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?!” – JB Richards
4 stars: “What I initially took to be a story about a traveler teaching English in Nepal turned out to be a thriller with a gang of diamond smugglers and intrigue.
I loved the detail of Kathmandu and Thailand, the main characters, the families and the villains. I would have liked to hear more about the children she taught, but I could feel her humiliation as a teacher.
Full of confidence as she began her trip, Zelda goes back and forth between that and complete self-doubt, depending on what situation she finds herself in. As a traveler, I could identify with that!
I enjoyed this book, it kept me interested until the end.” – author Melissa Burovac
5 stars: “There’s something to be said about reading the dedication of a book. It gives insight behind the writer, and sometimes there is that inkling of who the author is, behind their words, their characters. This is the second book of Alderson’s that I’ve read, and I love this one, too. Adventures in Backpacking to say the least. I love Zelda. She’s one of those characters that just stand out because she is relatable. Who doesn’t want to escape from burnout, grab a backpack and lead yourself on an adventure.
As any good story, Zelda becomes in over her head, and her entanglement is clearly terrifying. I had to read this book from start to finish in one sitting, as I couldn’t put it down, not even for a second. The ending had me stunned, finding closure, and hoping for another adventure at the same time. And, always take the time to read the acknowledgement at the end of the book. It’s worth the read!”- Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews
5 stars: “Down and Out is an engrossing and thrilling travel mystery that was hard to put down… Alderson’s descriptions of Nepal and Bangkok were very realistic and gave readers a glimpse of the dangerously illegal and dark side that exists in these countries. This book is fun and entertaining, but also reminds us of how dangerous it can be to travel alone and how easy it is to be taken advantage of…
What I most enjoyed and appreciated about this book was Alderson’s excellent knack for storytelling and using characters who weren’t very sophisticated when it came to traveling, but were still likeable, in their individual ways. I look forward to more travel mysteries from this worldly author, and highly recommend Down and Out, as it includes a little bit of everything readers love in good books.” – author Jill Dobbe
“A book I’d like to mention to any readers thirsting for some armchair adventure.” – Beth Green of The Displaced Nation
4 stars: “I would love to travel but unfortunately I do not have the money for it. That is one of the reasons why I love to read, it’s my way to travel. This week I went to Kathmandu for 3 months to volunteer at a Nepalese school, I’ve met an Australian guy and escaped the wrath of a diamond smuggler. Quite an eventful trip but I loved it!”- Goodreads Giveaway winner
5 stars: “This story has a great female lead and an exotic setting. Jennifer Alderson created an interesting character, Zelda Richardson. We all can relate to her in our own lives. Zelda gets in over her head by volunteering to teach English in Nepal. She is idealistic, courageous, and down to earth. She tries to make the best out of the situation, gets frustrated and grows along the way. I was completely immersed in the country of Nepal. The images were vividly concocted in my mind… I was so swept up in the novel that I want to read Zelda’s continuing adventures in the next book… I learned a lot and would like to visit Nepal someday. I recommend reading this title.” – TripFiction member review
Down and Out in Kathmandu is also featured on the University of Amsterdam’s Alumni website.
5 stars: “Zelda Richardson ditches her secure computer-programming job in Seattle and heads to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, to work as a volunteer English teacher, in what turns out to be an undisciplined, free-for-all classroom. Nevertheless, this somewhat naïve but gutsy young woman is determined not to allow this country and its 25-plus million people get the better of her, even as her preconceived romanticized notions are quickly squelched. However, it’s not only the country she collides with, but also, the charming Australian trekker who ends up more fixed on drugs and alcohol than scaling the Nepalese peaks.
Alderson’s portrayal allows the reader to view the underbelly of the city, with all its smells and sounds, its chaos and pathos. In fact, Kathmandu becomes its own character and leaves the reader to decide if it’s an antagonist or protagonist.
This is a well-researched (on site experience) and entertaining read for both armchair travelers and trekkers.” – author Pamela Allegretto
5 stars: “Down and Out Kathmandu includes adventurous tall tales of the virgin backpacker. Along the way, the protagonist meets Ian the seductive Australian, and Tommy the twit. Nepal and Thailand are the highlighted countries where the author divulges cultural content and life lessons from her experiences. Nothing is as she expects…which is why traveling is so awesome, always full of surprises, especially when it’s done blindly.
An excellent novel full of travel stories for the new or current backpacker. Anyone who has backpacked, thrown themselves naively into another culture, will be able to relate to this, and should read it. The story events become more extreme bordering between non-fiction and fiction, but that’s all part of the fun and imagination!” – travel author Kait Fennell
4 stars: “Three strong characters appear in this novel, Zelda, Ian and Tommy. How their paths cross is part of the storyline’s progression and the reader is kept guessing until the end.
The locale is certainly hot and steamy and successfully brings to life the trip Zelda undertakes in the company of her guide, Khamel, to, for example, Swayambhunath Monkey Temple – this outing is well rendered (the temple was sadly damaged in the Nepal Earthquake of 25 April, 2015). Kathmandu really doesn’t come across as an easy place. Money is the main language and Zelda finds herself preoccupied with the dirt and squalor…
A good book to take to Kathmandu because it does convey the venal, buzzy feel of the city.”- TripFiction’s review
4 stars: “Funny account of a westerner’s first backpackers trip abroad. As a fellow traveler, many of the scenes were very recognizable, sometimes painfully so! Good dose of intrigue as well.” – iBooks customer
“The blurb describes this book as an adventure by Zelda Richardson, a volunteer teacher in Nepal. She is not trained as a teacher, having quit her job in a computer company in Seattle. The book is told from the perspective of 3 people, Zelda, Ian, an Australian who has come to Nepal to use recreational drugs, and Tommy, a Canadian who smuggles diamonds. […]
The author clearly has spent time in Nepal, describing in vivid detail the sights, sounds and smells unfamiliar to an American.
Quotes: Exiting the airport–“As the doors slid open, her nasal cavities were assaulted by a wave of feces, unknown spices, and body odor.”
Traffic–“Insane motorcyclists, belching buses, three wheeled breadboxes, kamikaze bicycles and brightly dressed woman competed with her cab for room.”
Walking in Kathmandu–“By the time she had reached her first major turn, Zelda had stepped in too many piles of cow,goat, dog and human s**t to count.” […]
The plot resolves all the various threads satisfactorily.” – Thomas, Goodreads review
“When I started reading this book I thought I was going to read a travel book (that’s what happens if you don’t even bother to read the blurb). I must admit that I wasn’t very thrilled with the prospect. So imagine how thrilled I was when I realized that the book was much more than that!
The author has a knack for describing places and people making everything interesting – no boring details. She pictured Kathmandu and Thailand with enough detail to bring them before my eyes and make me want to have a chance to see them as well. I can see that she has a good knowledge of Kathmandu and the town itself becomes like a pivotal character of the novel, betrayed by smells and sounds and by its underground life.
The characters are well-developed and believable. Zelda Richardson is a Canadian who decided to go to tach in Kathmandu (despite her lack of experience) and she walks the line between self-confidence and self-doubt almost all the time. Overwhelmed but determined, she fights back in all instances. She tangles with the Australian trekker, Ian, a former teacher, who succumbs to drugs and to the shoddy part of life. The third character is Tommy who, surprisingly, is based not in Kathmandu but Thailand and quite a good slice of the story takes place there.
At a certain moment, the action becomes a little far-fetched, however, it is fiction, and that is understandable. The twists in the plot are good enough to keep the reader’s interest.” – Jackie, fallinlovewiththesoundofwords book blog
5 stars: “The book captured my interest from the first chapter and maintained to the end. I enjoyed how the characters were developed. Will definitely read the authors next book!” – Amazon customer
5 stars: “Liked it a lot! Well-driven plot, funny observations and easy to relate to. I would like to read her next book for sure.” – Amazon.DE customer
PAPERBACK and KINDLE EDITIONS: ISBN-13: 978-1519365903; ISBN-10: 151936590X
SMASHWORDS EDITION: ISBN-13: 9781311465245
KEYWORDS: adventure, thriller, backpacker fiction, travel fiction, international crime, crime fiction, mystery, suspense, heist, smuggling, volunteer, Nepal, Thailand