The Fourth Watcher is the second installment of Timothy Hallinan's Bangkok series. The story follows American Poke Rafferty, a travel writer who has been writing the “Looking For Trouble” travel series, but is ready to change his life. He has fallen in love with Rose, a beautiful Thai woman with a checkered past. Poke has also adopted Miaow, a former street urchin. It is his desire to care for his girlfriend and new daughter, and rescue them from the poverty that drags so many Thai girls into drugs and prostitution, and all seems well until the “suits” arrive at his door.
The story really takes off at this point, with a myriad of subplots masterfully interwoven. Poke’s estranged father is in trouble with a Chinese gangster, who decides to go after Poke despite the fact that the two have not seen one another in years. Rose finds herself connected to a counterfeiting ring. Throw in a Secret Service Agent and some corrupt police officers and you have the makings of a roller-coaster thriller. Hallinan grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. The Fourth Watcher is a tension-filled story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Hallinan’s prose is deceptively simple. While he might not be a master wordsmith, he has a knack for describing people and places in just the perfect way. It is almost as if the reader can step into the pages of the book and actually be in Bangkok. The characters are just as skillfully crafted. You might not necessarily like the characters all the time, but you can definitely identify with them. There are no two-dimensional stereotypes in this story – just real people leading their sometimes ugly lives.
Overall, this is a very entertaining story that moves so fast that you might actually miss some of Hallinan’s dry witticisms and subtle character development. It is a crime thriller, and lacks the adventure component that I generally prefer, but I found it a fascinating read nonetheless. I highly recommend The Fourth Watcher to thriller fans everywhere.