I spent almost three weeks in Bangkok back in 1973. That was the only time I ever visited… until now. Timothy Hallinan is responsible for this latest trip, and in the middle of a torrential rain no less, with Poke Rafferty for a tour guide.
Hallinan knows Thailand well, since he lives there part-time, but a lot of people live in a lot of places and can’t impart to the reader the sense of immediacy that Hallinan does in his Poke Rafferty novels.
You’ll get wet. You’ll stay wet. You'll buy and lose umbrellas like you change socks. You’ll drink Singha beer in large bottles. You’ll eat Thai noodles from sidewalk vendors and you’ll weave through pedestrian traffic filled with a melting pot of peoples from all over south east Asia, India, Australia, England and America. The sense of place is that good.
And it should be. Poke Rafferty is a travel writer. He has written what he calls “rough travel” books–Looking for Trouble in the Philippines and Looking for Trouble in Indonesia. He came to Bangkok to write his next book, but fell in love with Rose, the “queen” of the Patpong bars. Together they have adopted a daughter off the mean sidewalks of Bangkok, Miaow. Poke’s life seems to have a will of its own, and at times he feels as if he is in the eye of a typhoon, but Rose and Miaow are his center.
The Fear Artist (Poke Rafferty Thriller) is the fifth thriller in the Poke Rafferty series, following the Edgar Nominated The Queen of Patpong. Rafferty is settling into family life and has sent Rose and Miaow to safe ground, as Bangkok is in danger of flooding due to relentless rain. He takes the opportunity of having his apartment empty to do a little painting, carrying cans of paint from the shop, feeling the wire handles cut into his palms and coming to the realization the four gallons of paint weigh more than he could have imagined.
He backs through the doors of the shop on to the wet sidewalk and immediately is bowled over by a very large balding man. The man, Rafferty and two gallons of Apricot Cream and two Gallons of “a sort of rotted eggplant color called ‘Urban Decay–Miaow’s rebellious choice” crash to the sidewalk in the middle of a running crowd.