For the Dead, by Timothy Hallinan
Ah, Bangkok. Only there could a couple teenagers trying to buy a used iPhone from a dodgy street vendor wind up being chased by killers for what’s on the phone.
That’s the kind of city this is, though: a grinning, sweet monster that alternates between bedeviling her children and then trying to save them — maybe a little too late.
The good news is that one of the children is Miaow, who — as readers of Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty books — can take care of herself, especially in Bangkok’s labyrinth of back streets and abandoned buildings.
Better news is that her adoptive father, Poke, is well-adept at dealing with strange and potentially-deadly situations — especially when they threaten the safety of his now-growing family. Having just come out the richer for having dealt with a well-connected, genuine villain in his last, harrowing adventure (The Fear Artist), he’s not kindly disposed to someone else trying to turn his world upside down, right into an early grave.
Unfortunately, this new problem’s going to be a really dangerous one. These killers aren’t just unusually-determined hoodlums: they’re connected to someone who’s well-wedged into the higher levels of Bangkok’s ever-corrupt police. And that means that they might not be able to get much help from their police friend, Arthit, as he’s going to have to watch his step as well, this time.
So that means that, once again, Poke’s going to have to go into the bowels of the demon city that’s taken him in, and play for time. He’ll have to rely on friends of friends, as well as people he’d rather not deal with at all, and a couple individuals he’s not certain he can really trust, given their past activities.
But there’s another wrinkle, here. Somewhere out there is a piece of unfinished business — a piece of human wreckage that Poke inadvertently left in his wake, and will now have to deal with, if only For The Dead…
Timothy Hallinan is one of those authors that, no matter what he writes, can be guaranteed to deliver a great thriller into your hands. But For the Dead delivers more than just a good, white-knuckle read in an exotic location: as Poke tries to find some kind of dodge between bad alternatives, one has to marvel at what an amazing group of characters Hallinan has constructed, how well they’ve been fleshed out, and how genuinely terrified we become when they fall into jeopardy. It’s no small matter to confess that, when the author pricks them, we bleed.
Eternally poised between hope and horror, and filled with snappy dialogue, a true sense of place, and people you genuinely want to live and be happy, Timothy Hallinan’s latest is another must-read. Long-time fans will find themselves vocally cheering Poke on, newcomers will be astounded at how he gets through this one, and everyone will probably need to pick their jaws up off the floor when they see how he ultimately deals with the callous architect of his current problems.
One could start reading Poke’s story with For the Dead, but to get the full effect you really should check out “A Nail Through the Heart,” and work your way forwards in what is, hands-down, one of the best, most heartfelt exotic thriller series being written today. You might not want to visit Bangkok afterwards, but you’ll understand why it’s often called the best worst city in the world.
For the Dead drops November 4th, and will be available at all Schuler Books and Music locations
– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood location.