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July 4, 2009 / schulerbooks

Breathing Water, by Timothy Hallinan


Bangkok-based writer Poke Rafferty is in deep again. A botched bit of research for his latest book lands him a golden opportunity – the chance to write the exclusive biography of Thailand’s most outrageous, yet beloved gangster. But no sooner does he get that opportunity than two competing groups of thugs start threatening him and his family. One will kill them if he writes the book, but the other will kill them if he doesn’t.

What’s a travel writer to do? Fortunately, Poke is not without friends, or the ability to concoct a cunning – if questionable – plan, given time. But those who want the book written are demanding progress updates, and both sides are keeping him under heavy surveillance. Meanwhile, his allies in the Bangkok police have serious problems of their own…

Outmaneuvered and outgunned, Poke will have to find the third way, yet again. Calling  on old friends and new opportunities, he navigates a steaming river of inconvenient secrets and competing agendas by the seat of his pants — not always one stride ahead of his enemies, but definitely at least one step to their left as our favorite travel writer strives to get home safely once more.

Fans of Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty books (A Nail Through the Heart and The Fourth Watcher) will find Breathing Water to be as exotic and suffocatingly suspenseful as its predecessors, deftly balancing the ugly side of Thailand with humor and hope. As always, the basic decency of Poke and his friends shines through, turning what could be just another stacked-odds thriller into a compelling tale of a quiet hero just trying to get by in the best worst city in the world.

Timothy Hallinan has delivered another searing beauty of a book. If you like exotic thrillers that are as full of heart as they are twists and reverses, you should check it out.

Breathing Water drops August 18th.

– Reviewed by Jim Tremlett, Eastwood


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