Timothy Hallinan is one of a group of writers who contribute to a blog called “Murder is Everywhere.” Each of them writes in a different country about that country’s problems and differing approach to crime solving. Hallinan’s country is Thailand and his protagonist is a travel writer named Poke Rafferty. Poke has married a former bar/go-go girl and they have adopted an orphan from the streets of Bangkok. “The Queen of Patpong” is the fourth in the series, but it provides much of the backstory for Rose, his wife. A menacing stranger from Rose’s past shows up while the family is eating at a restaurant and she drives a steak knife into his hand! Soon their little family is in mortal danger and a serial killer is stalking the former bar girls who are Rose’s friends and employees in her housekeeping business. Poke’s ability to tie threads of information together from the past and the present are the key to the satisfying conclusion. But the heart pounding suspense will keep you riveted until the end.
“A Nail Through the Heart” is the first, followed by “The Fourth Watcher” and then “Breathing Water.” They are all thrillers and the pace is electric, the atmosphere suffocatingly steamy and all of mankind’s worst impulses are for sale in Bangkok. But they’re also the tale of a family trying to form and stay together in the middle of all the chaos.
Hallinan has two earlier collections out in e-book form, the Junior Bender series and the Simeon Grist series. I was so impressed with the Bangkok novels I have also read them. But “The Queen of Patpong” is easily his best and has been nominated for major awards this year, the Edgar and the Macavity. If you like your thrillers with heart and sass, try the Poke Rafferty series. I guarantee if you read “The Queen..” you’ll want to read the rest.
P.S. These books are not for young readers or the faint of heart.