In Bangkok, Thailand, an American travel journalist and his Thai family find themselves inadvertently entangled in a web of dirty cops and far-reaching corruption when their daughter’s ill-gotten cell phone displays photographs of some very crooked cops, all of them thoroughly dead.
Poke Rafferty is happier than he's ever been. He's financially solvent, his family is about to grow larger, and his adopted Thai daughter, Miaow, seems to have settled in at junior high school. All that is endangered when Miaow and her boyfriend, Andrew, buy a stolen iPhone from a shady vendor and discover photographs of two dead police officers on it - disgraced officers, violently murdered to avenge the long-dead. Surrounding the murder investigation is a conspiracy that reaches the highest reaches of Bangkok law enforcement, and perhaps beyond. It soon becomes apparent that Miaow's discovery threatens the entire family - and if that's not enough, in order to survive, they may ultimately have to depend on someone who, in the past, has already betrayed them.
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This is Tim Hallinan's world. We just live in it.
It's way up there. Tim's writing is unique. It is hard to make comparisons. Each book is filled with humor. There are several serious chuckles on every page. I guarantee it. In addition, there is the beautiful family that Poke has created: his wife, Rose, their street-urchin daughter, Miaow (if you don't laugh at that name, then there may be no hope for you), a surprise character whom I will not name, as I don't want to be a spoiler; and Miaow's boyfriend, Andrew Nguyen, who is self-conscious, comes from a wealthy family, is a very gawky and awkward adolescent AND has diabetes: this is a well of inventiveness that it is a pleasure to jump into. I believe there is no bottom (not to stretch that analogy too far). The family also includes Poke's best friend, Arthit, a Bangkok policeman, who lets us see the corruption that the BPD is crippled by, as well as the individual well of human kindness that reaches into Arthit's soul. This is quite a band of characters, and Tim keeps us jumping from one scenario to the next. This is writing skill at its highest level. Tim is starting to win awards. The reviews from his colleagues are glittering. The cream has risen to the top. In the thriller/detective/quasi-detective genre (did I really write that?) Tim stands right up there with Thomas Perry. Fine company indeed.
I addressed some of this above. I think that the relationships between Poke and Rose, and the budding relationship between Miaow and Andrew: my interest in these will keep me coming back; that, and almost every other aspect of Tim's books. There is nothing that I didn't like about the book.
Again, hard to pick. The chase scene in which Miaow and Andrew scramble through the heating ducts in the old abandoned hotel: this one is particularly mesmerizing. The use of Andrew's diabetes kit as a weapon is so creative that you just have to tip your hat to him.
I guess I am going to spoil it after all: the moment when Rose tells Poke that she is pregnant...if you don't get all warm and fuzzy here, then you are missing something really deep and astonishingly personal. Remember that Rose was a bar-girl (read: prostitute) for many years, and in this moment she has risen to the ultimate in love, acceptance, belonging, and pure, unadulterated pleasure. I didn't cry, but I coulda. Tim has almost created his own genre here, in the manner of Thomas Perry. I will buy every book that each of them writes until I die.
- Richard Delman
Timothy Hallinan has my appreciation!