Back when Poke Rafferty first arrived in Bangkok to write a travel guide, some of the old-timers in the Expat Bar on Patpong Road helped him make sense of the city. Now these men - many of whom have been living in Southeast Asia since the Vietnam War - have grown old and, in some cases, frail. When a talkative stranger named Arthur Varney turns up, they accept him without suspicion, failing to see that he's actually using them to get to Poke. Varney wants two things: money Poke doesn't have and a person Poke is unwilling to hand over. It becomes apparent quite quickly that there's nothing Varney won't do to secure his goals. As his actions threaten the foundation of Poke's life in Thailand, the aging men of the Expat Bar discover that they might still be a force to reckon with.
Cover design by James Iacobelli.
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The lukewarm countries
I think that Tim Hallinan has finally dipped into the well of Bangkok and Poke Rafferty's life one time too many. I still love his writing, still, but the speed of the narration is so fast that it's distracting. Of course I am liking Rose's pregnancy, and the fact that Miaow is growing up into an actress, but the setting is beginning to wear on me.
The cast of characters in the bar has become stale. This new guy, Varney, is the most crushing bore ever, anywhere on earth. Why exactly Tim thinks that we should listen to this guy rant and rave on and on is a puzzle which really doesn't interest me. It's just waaay boring. Somebody should shut the guy up, right away.
Maybe. He is going much too fast here, for reasons I don't understand. The ambience of Bangkok is now very familiar (I can feel the humidity soaking through my clothes) and the multiple plots are becoming confusing and very hard to follow. The dead guy Haskell, whose house blew up with over $3 million in fireproof suitcases: who can possibly remember what that was all about? Too much of everything.
No. Too much plot. The earlier books are more interesting in terms of movie material. There are so many good actors around that it is really too bad that there is no role for Cate Blanchett, who is by far the best actor of her generation.
Disappointing. I will likely buy the next book, purely out of loyalty to Tim, but they are getting less interesting, and the whole Junior Bender thing is just a bad idea. We are supposed to identify with and like a thief? Yuck.
- Richard Delman
I thought it would be good