Hallinan (Breathing Water, 2009, etc.) takes his Poke Rafferty series to the next level with this taut, offbeat and fast-moving thriller that focuses on Bangkok’s red-light district and sex trade.
Travel writer Poke has finally persuaded his live-in love Rose, a statuesque former bar girl in Bangkok’s Patpong district, to marry him. The couple and their adopted daughter Miaow are happy. Miaow, a former street urchin, is doing well in school and preparing for her part in an upcoming version of The Tempest; Rose’s cleaning service, which hires former bar workers, is successful; and Poke’s latest book is doing well. But as anyone familiar with Hallinan’s previous entries in this series knows, that much serendipity means Poke’s trouble meter is running. This time the trouble centers around Rose, who finds her past flooding back to haunt her in the worst possible form—a man she thought was dead pops up with the clear intention of not only disrupting her life, but taking it, along with the lives of the other people who matter to her. Poke is well aware of Rose’s past—he met her in a bar—but he had no clue as to what she endured at the hands of this man, or the detailed story of her journey from village girl to prostitute. In the second part of the novel, Rose poignantly tells her story, and this is where Hallinan’s writing really shines: Readers can feel the grime and poverty of village life, smell the streets of Bangkok, taste the fear when Rose—previously known as “Kwan”—fights for her life in her own, private version of The Tempest. Stalked by a resourceful killer dedicated to wiping out his family, Poke and his loyal and incorruptible friend, police officer Arthit, still mourning the loss of his wife, put together a plan to bring the hunter into the kill zone, hoping they can end the nightmare that began years ago in a Bangkok club.
Hallinan’s unlikely hero shines in this sometimes funny, always engrossing and undeniably authentic story that explores a dark and fascinating side of Thailand.