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June 20, 2010 / schulerbooks

The Queen of Patpong, by Timothy Hallinan

“…hell is empty, and all the devils are here” – Ariel, The Tempest, Scene II

Things have been going well for Poke Rafferty, after his last harrowing – but thankfully survivable – misadventure. His latest book’s gotten him some money, Rose’s business is doing well, and their adopted daughter, Miaow, is one of the stars in the school production of The Tempest. They’re still concerned about their grieving friend, Arthit, but surely they can find a way to work that out, too, given time? Things are quiet, stable, and – eerily enough – pretty good.

Of course, that’s when Bangkok – harsh but lovable monster that she is – decides to throw Poke and his family the ultimate curve ball.

A dangerous enemy from Rose’s past – someone she tried to kill, but obviously failed – violently interjects himself into their lives over dinner, and brutally demonstrates that he has the power of life and death over them. Suddenly, their apartment is no longer safe, but every soi and tuk-tuk could be a trap, too, which means they have no way to completely escape. Arthit tries to assist, of course, but given the exotic vagaries – and bribe-battened ineptitude – of the Thai police, the cavalry might arrive far too late to be any help. And is Arthit in any real shape to aid them, now?

Of course, Poke never met an unwelcome challenge he didn’t overcome – usually by side-stepping them with sneaky tricks, and the assistance of friends he didn’t know he had yet. But to defeat this newly-rediscovered caliban he’ll need to do more than find his usual third way; he’ll need to learn the truth about the woman he’s loved, but never fully known. For Rose had another life, long before Poke knew her, and the secrets she has kept must come forward if they’re  to survive.

Rose will have to tell her tale quickly, though. For her devil has come back to Patpong, and desires to complete her long-overdue murder…

The latest chapter in Poke Rafferty’s life is as searing a beauty as its three predecessors, and is expertly balanced between horror, humor, and hope. Long-time fans of the series will be  justly rewarded by the lengthy revelations of Rose’s past, and first time readers will have the joy of watching Poke make up plans on the run – sometimes surprising his foes, and sometimes himself. Poke and his family are just quiet and decent people trying to get by in the best worst city in the world, and Hallinan takes care to present both the good and bad sides of a country that, while dangerous, has a very human heart beating in its dingy, breakneck streets.

Thriller fans who want something more than just another “stacked odds” rundown in an exotic location should pick up The Queen of Patpong. All three previous books in the series (A Nail Through the Heart, The Fourth Watcher, and Breathing Water) are also available, and also excellent.

The Queen of Patpong drops on August 17th

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood.

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