Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Poke Rafferty #5: THE FEAR ARTIST by Timothy Hallinan

Ever since he introduced Poke Rafferty in 2007, Timothy Hallinan has been winning fans for his alter ego, a travel writer in Bangkok. In 2010, the fourth in the suspense series, The Queen of Patpong, raked in an Edgar Award nomination. And now we have the fifth -- and maybe the best yet -- THE FEAR ARTIST.

Things start out simply enough: A man being chased falls on top of him, on the sidewalk, and is shot and killed as he collapses. Rafferty hears three words from the dying man, and is abruptly surrounded by a phalanx of police officers and at least one "spook" -- government spy. Although he gets released from the scene, his troubles have barely started.

It's a good thing his wife Rose and daughter Miaow are out of the city, even though he misses them viscerally. Even his best friend Arthit is out of reach right now, caught up in heartbreak. Rafferty's actually afraid to feel his aloneness -- or not aloneness, if you count the people who seem to be following him,
He feels a bit of the old tingle, the little carbonated fizz of anticipation he'd felt all those years ago, when he first arrived, when Bangkok was just one jaw-dropper after another. When he spoke none of the language, when he might as well have been blind for all the sense the signs made to him. When he felt that the odds were fifty-fifty, each time he went down a new street, that it would be dedicated to holiness -- temple carvers, amulet makers, gold-leaf hammerers -- or hedonism -- bars, restaurants, flamboyant neon signifying the fall-off edge of his middle-class map of life.
Except now the fifty-fifty seems to apply to him: On the one hand, he might be safe until the next block, even though he's being followed. On the other, he might be shot himself or, at least as chilling, tossed into jail as an American spy. And the idea of his family being threatened makes him even more vulnerable -- and more determined to get to the bottom of the stranger's death and its ramifications.

Soon Rafferty is leaning on Arthit after all, and on a Russian, and to his utter astonishment, on a family member he didn't realize could or would walk back into his life. Even the weather becomes threatening -- and what Rafferty learns only increases the danger he's in, moment by moment.

Soho Crime released this one yesterday, so if you're headed into summer vacation -- or trying to distract yourself from not being there! -- it's time to get a copy. You won't need to read the preceding four books -- A Nail Through the Heart, The Fourth Watcher, Breathing Water, and The Queen of Patpong -- but you'll probably want to. Why not? This is what summer is made for.

PS - Do visit Hallinan's website. Lots to enjoy:

No comments: