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Fans of John Burdett's Bangkok mysteries, featuring Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep will want to check out this new series from Timothy Hallinan. His protagonist, travel writer Poke Rafferty, bumps up against the same beauties and blights of modern Thailand, but has to try and deal with them from an outsider's perspective. This first installment is somewhat disorienting, starting in the middle of Rafferty's tale and peopled with characters and relationships that seem like we're supposed to know something of them already. He's living with a former dance hall girl, who's trying to start a business and is wary of depending on or committing to him. He's essentially adopted a young girl he found on the street and now she's brought along a much wilder young boy who had protected her but distrusts everyone else. It's impossible not to like Poke and the incipient family he's trying to put together under trying circumstances in a very foreign land.

Even as he deals with these unusual domestic arrangements and the aftermath of the tsunami, Poke is drawn into two mysteries, one involving the disappearance of an Australian woman's uncle, the other concerning the blackmailing of a vicious Cambodian crone. The former case ends up descending deep into the horrific child sexploitation whereby Westerners cluster in Bangkok to prey on the impoverished young. Mr. Hallinan sometimes lingers over details so long that he nearly implicates Poke, himself, and the reader in the morass, using the tragedy for what is, in some sense, entertainment value. Less, in this regard, would have been better. But justice is served in the end and hope prevails. If Poke moves on to other sorts of cases in the future his adventures should be well worth following.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

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Private Eyes
Timothy Hallinan Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: TimothyHallinan.com
    -PODCAST: Interview with Timothy Hallinan (Written Voices)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Timothy Hallinan
    -BOOK SITE: A Nail Through the Heart (Harper Collins)
    -REVIEW: Of A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan (Chris McCann, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of A Nail Through the Heart (Richard Lipez, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of A Nail Through the Heart (Sandy Mitchell, Suite 101)
    -REVIEW: of
   
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