Mystery writer Hallinan (The Bone Polisher, 1995, etc.) scores big-time with a fast-moving thriller set in Thailand.
Poke Rafferty, the improbable product of a Filipino-Irish union, writes articles and niche travel books that provide him enough to live, if not well, at least better than the average Joe in Bangkok. The American expat wants to marry bar-girl-turned-businesswoman Rose, and he wants to adopt Miaow, the eight-year-old urchin he’s rescued from the streets. Then Poke’s old friend, a police officer named Arthit, sends him a young woman searching for her recently disappeared uncle. As Poke digs deeper into the uncle’s past, he finds evil that strikes a bit too close for comfort. Matters get even more complicated when he crosses paths with Madame Wing, a terrifying old woman who hires Poke to investigate a theft that has left at least one man dead, and with Miaow’s friend Superman, a scary street kid. They’re only two of the vibrant, deftly drawn characters who throng Hallinan’s exotic but believable landscape. His hero has both a gun and a conscience, as well as enough wit to do the math and come up with the right answer. Poke struggles with age-old questions of right and wrong in a very personal way as the well-crafted narrative moves quickly and convincingly toward a satisfying conclusion that almost guarantees a sequel.
Dark, often funny and ultimately enthralling.