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Sunday 16 Jun 2024

Nail Thru the Heart
Jennifer Ramirez

Poke Rafferty is an American travel writer living in Bangkok, who has created a niche writing "Looking for Trouble" guide books about Southeast Asia's multitude of adult pleasures. Having eventually grown bored with the bar scene, he has created a family of sorts with a former bar dancer and a rescued orphan girl, one of thousands of thrown away children in Thailand. He has also made a kind of side business out of finding people in Bangkok who don't necessarily want to be found.

Timothy Hallinan introduces travel writer and sometime investigator Poke Rafferty, a man living on the edge but searching for stability in his life in Bangkok, in “A Nail Through the Heart.”

Poke Rafferty, an American, a farang, is the author of a number of very popular travel books in a series called "Looking for Trouble.” Poke lives in Bangkok with Rose, a Thai woman, an ex-prostitute, whom he wants to marry, and a little girl called Miaow, rescued from the streets, whom he wants to adopt. Miaow has herself chosen a street boy nicknamed Superman to rescue, but he appears to be a killer.

Able to speak Thai fluently, Poke is accepted in the local neighborhood where he lives. Poke's friend Arthit is a rare example of an honest Thai policeman. From time to time he and Poke do each other favours. Arthit tells Poke of an Australian woman who is trying to find her missing uncle Claus Ulrich, and Rafferty agrees to meet with Clarissa.

Rafferty is hired by the niece of an Australian man who has disappeared from his home in Bangkok. The man's live-in housekeeper, who has also disappeared, used to work for a wealthy woman who is feared by the police and public alike. While visiting the woman during the course of his investigation, she changes the subject and suddenly offers him a large sum of money to find a man who recently stole something from her. Rafferty needs the cash: he's in the process of adopting a little girl and the money will go a long ways towards paying for her schooling. But then Rafferty learns that these two missing person investigations are related, and he's drawn into a world of evil that not only threatens his life, but that of the family he loves.

The novel is set just after the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. Many Bangkok people are in grieving, many have lost immediate family. Down on the coast in Phuket bodies are constantly turning up, but Poke doubts that elderly and overweight Claus would have been there. The conclusion of the book is surprisingly pragmatic and somewhat open-ended.

“A Nail through the Heart” is an insightful book that makes good use of Mr. Hallinan's many years' experience living in Southeast Asia. It is at times a difficult book, not for the reader who prefers cottage cozies. Hallinan varies the pace of the book to create a "hurry up and wait" feeling of fast-paced action followed by periods of inaction. His use of language and phrasing alone make this a novel worth picking up.


Click on title, below, to read a review of other books by Timothy Hallinan

Crashed, the first book in the Junior Bender series.

The Fear Artist, a Poke Rafferty thriller set in Bangkok.

Fourth Watcher, a Poke Rafferty thriller set in Bangkok.

Breathing Water, a Poke Rafferty thriller set in Bangkok.

Queen of Patpong, a Poke Rafferty thriller set in Bangkok.

Jennifer Ramirez, known as Jenny, has reviewed and edited for 5+ years. Originally from Toronto, she grew up performing and competing in rhythmic gymnastics. Jenny enjoys reviewing movies, books and music albums. She describes herself as funny and righteous, with a 'go that extra mile' attitude. Her philosophy is quite simple: try to live life to the fullest Jenny writes that hr passion is books. She reads and reviews current and back-list literary fiction, crime fiction, thrillers, occasionally science fiction, and narrative nonfiction. She also loves music. She's a huge fan of The Maine and All Time Low! Joy is her favorite word and creativity is something she can't live without.

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