978006125722397816169511229780061672255My previous favorite (and the only one I knew) novelist dealing in Thai themes was John Burdette, with whom I’d become lately disillusioned. Seemed he’d run his string. Then a reader of my Goodreads review of Vulture Peak suggested Timothy Hallinan, and here we  are with a delicious trio of thrillers that have many of the same elements of Burdette’s with a myriad of new angles. The Fear Artist, A Nail through the Heart, and Breathing Water all feature a travel writer/reformed hedonist named (great name) Poke Rafferty who is in the process of domesticating himself and a former bar girl named Rose (there’s a stripper theme in the Burdette books as well), even to the extent of trying to make an adopted daughter out of a street urchin named Miaow.


Thus, stationed on the edge of the Bangkok underworld with his journalistic contacts among both the international crowd and the Police, Hallinan has positioned his character nicely to get him pulled into a number of racy adventures and given him the establishment tools to help work his way through them. It’s formulaic for sure, and Rafferty is a bullheaded guy who makes horrendous mistakes but manages to survive and, it seems, work his way toward eventual prosperity, sort of. I’m giving summaries here as if reading one of these novels is to read them all, but not quite so. Each book contains a myriad of new characters and intriguing situations, with enough recurring people and suspense over the Rose/Miaow situation to freshen each one. The Buddhistic perspective keeps the western mind often mystified and leads Rafferty into perilous waters often. Good stuff. 2.0

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