Lies That Save Lives

by Keith Costelloe

Book Cover: Starship Malaysia
ISBN: 978-1-03-915291-5
ISBN: 978-1-03-915291-5
ISBN: 978-1-03-915291-5
ISBN: 978-1-03-915291-5

A YA thriller set in Malaysia in 1982 & 1983. Scott is a seventeen-year-old Californian high school boy who has a dream about his father being killed in a car accident. The story focuses on the trafficking, potential violence and trauma caused by kidnapping and how teenage boys work together to thwart a major international trafficking gang. It’s a ‘boys-own’ adventure story suitable for 15-year-olds and older. It has elements of fantasy, grounded in reality, as he has out-of-body experiences which help him understand himself, his mother and father, a Vietnam war vet. Scott makes recordings for Starship Malaysia on life in Malaysia and more informal recordings for his friend, Waz, in Palo Alto. Scott also journals his experiences in Malaysia. He wants to be an international correspondent and makes reports to his Starship, but finds himself dragged into a dangerous situation.

Publisher: Friesen Press

I wanted to kill my dad, and now he’s gone.

I’m in the back of the car with them, watching the sun setting over the glittering ocean. A road trip down the California coast. Highway 1. Done it before, and yet Dad wanted to do it again, bring us together, he said. Agnes, me, and my dad.

Agnes is there in the front seat, commenting on his driving. Then she’s getting worked up but trying to stay calm. “Jon, slow down. You’re driving too fast.”

“Don’t worry, darling, I’m fine. Look, I’m slowing down in the fast lane. Whoa, that car just flashed at me. Asshole.”

She looks at the truck thundering beside us and then at a mad guy in a pickup behind, leaning on his horn and flashing his high beams.

In this scared voice and gasping for air, Agnes is giving orders like always. “Agghh. Pass this truck. Get in the slow lane.”


Dad puts his foot down, and we speed up to pass the Kenworth semi, bright red and massive. He signals and gets in front of the truck. “There, I’m ahead.”

Way over the 65-mph speed limit, Dad pushes the car. A blast from the horn—loud and urgent. The truck’s silver radiator filling the rear window. Dad’s trying to stay ahead, but we’re going down a long, curving slope, the speedometer 100 and climbing. The truck’s still on our tail.

“It’s too fast.” Agnes is screaming. She’s hyped. My guts grip my insides.

Reviews:The Prairies Book Review wrote:

"A tense, evenly paced YA thriller. Costelloe’s page-turning thriller unfolds against the fascinating backdrop of 1980s Malaysia and Bangkok. Seventeen-year-old Scott finds his life in chaos after his father and stepmother are killed in a tragic car accident. Leaving his school and friends in Palo Alto, CA, behind, Scott moves to Malaysia with his mother and his stepfather. As he struggles to fit-in, he finds friends among his new school’s Volleyball team. When Nor, one of Scott’s Malaysian friends’ younger sister, gets kidnapped, Scott and his friends set out to look into the disappearance. Their search takes them to Bangkok, putting them face to face with a dangerous group of criminals. The story is told entirely from Scott’s point of view, and although the addition of supernatural elements feels a bit over-the-top, Costelloe provides readers insights into a variety of relevant social issues: cultural differences that separate the West from many Asian countries, sex trafficking, teenage angst, death, grief, bullying, violence, rage, friendship, and love. Scott’s struggle with the trauma of his father’s alcoholism and tragic death as well as his move to the new country and school as tries to find his own place in the world, is skillfully depicted. Costelloe is equally adept when it comes to giving dimension to the secondary characters and exploring their interpersonal dynamics and misperceptions. Readers are swept along as Scott, Saleh, Rayaan, and Chengjin set out to save Nor and Hannah, breaking the Thai sex trafficking ring. Deftly plotted and rich in detail, this engrossing YA thriller makes for a memorable portrait of a troubled teen gradually making his way against fierce odds."

BookView Review wrote:

"An adolescent’s struggles with grief and fitting-in form a backdrop to Costelloe’s absorbing YA thriller. Scott, a seventeen-year-old American teen from Palo Alto, CA, has a dream in which his father and stepmother are killed in a car accident. When his dream comes true, Scott has no option but to join his mother and her husband to Malaysia. He becomes good friends with Saleh, a Malay boy. When Saleh’s sister, Nor, is kidnapped to be sold into a sex-trafficking ring, the boys plan to rescue her, unaware of the dangers lying ahead. In this poignantly crafted story, Costelloe deftly layers rich details, such as how Scott has to deal with his father’s alcoholism and violent behaviour after his parents’ divorce and how Tai Chi, Kung Fu, and meditation help Scott deal with his own rage and aggression. Set in Malaysia in the early 1980s, the winding plot is jam-packed with twists that come at a relentless pace. Chapters alternate between Scott’s first-person perspective and audio tapes he records for his best friend in Palo Alto about his life in Malaysia, providing insight into his fears and insecurities along with his dreams, hopes, and longings. The drama builds to a surprising, satisfying ending. A solid, compelling YA thriller that beautifully explores violence, trauma, love, and friendship."

About the Author

I’ve lived and worked in North Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America, eventually settling in White Rock, Canada. I’m an active member of several writing groups and the CAA and FBCW, all of which have inspired me to continue writing. My first book, Drawn into Danger, is set in Algeria and reflects my time spent there. It is a fictional thriller, but the places are real. My second book, a young adult story is set in Malaysia, another country where we lived and worked. It has a teen protagonist who befriends a group of Malaysian boys, and they become involved in trying to rescue a girl that has been kidnapped. I’m presently writing a vampire story set in BC.