Book Review – Fool’s River by Tim Hallinan

Fools’ River
Timothy Hallinan
Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Soho Crime (November 7, 2017)
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Language: English

BOOK BLURB: The two most difficult days in Bangkok writer Poke Rafferty’s life begin with an emergency visit from Edward Dell, the almost-boyfriend of Poke’s teenage daughter, Miaow. The boy’s father, Buddy, a late-middle-aged womanizer who has moved to Bangkok for happy hunting, has disappeared, and money is being siphoned out of his bank and credit card accounts.

It soon becomes apparent that Buddy is in the hands of a pair of killers who prey on Bangkok’s “sexpats”; when his accounts are empty, he’ll be found, like a dozen others before him, floating facedown in a Bangkok canal with a weighted cast on his unbroken leg. His money is almost gone.

Over forty-eight frantic hours, Poke does everything he can to locate Buddy before it’s too late.

REVIEW: I was first introduced to Poke Rafferty in the third book of the series, Breathing Water and I was immediately enthralled with the setting and the recurring characters. One of the reasons I love to read is the opportunities that stories provide for us to leave our little corner of the globe to get a taste of what life is like somewhere so different, and Hallinan gives us heaping plates of the culture of Bangkok and Thailand.

He also gives us wonderful characters.

Poke is… well put him in another century with some armor and a mighty steed and he could be. You get it. A knight, slaying dragons and saving damsels in distress.

In this story he is out to save Buddy, but also Lutanh, the “ladyboy” who works as a prostitute and falls victim to a man with homophobic rage. Lutanh and Miaow, Poke’s daughter, are connected to Edward via a small theatre company, rehearsing Pygmalion, and that thread of the story intertwines with the major threads, creating a fascinating tapestry of relationships, plot, and drama.

Under all that, is a sub-plot involving Rose, Poke’s wife, and her pregnancy that is in jeopardy. That adds to the ticking-clock suspense of the story, underscoring the urgency to find Buddy before it is too late. Poke is relentless in his efforts to save the man and to get justice for Lutanh, just as Rose is relentless in her efforts to save her baby.

Reading any Hallinan novel, one will come across many clever phrases, and bits of philosophy, that will make you stop and smile. I marked a number of those in this book, then finally stopped because I knew I could not include them all in the review. Here are just a few:

Describing a man who had unlimited sex drive: “He would have fucked the crack of dawn if it had held still.”

Describing a man who has an unhappy approach to life: “…he’s someone whom life has let down so hard he got dented.”

Poke is thinking about the little gesture of Rose covering him with a blanket: “Small kindnesses, he thinks. There’s nothing much more important than small kindnesses.”

Thinking about happiness: “Happiness, his father had said, was a practical joke played on people with arrested development who continue to believe in fairies and Santa Claus and miracle cures: for the rest of us, happiness was just something we use later to measure our unhappiness against. Happiness was as temporary as a rash, and it ended worse.

Good old Dad.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edgar, Shamus, Macavity and Lefty nominee Timothy Hallinan has written twenty-one published novels, all thrillers and mysteries, all critically praised. He currently writes two series, one set in Los Angeles and the other in Bangkok, and in 2017 he also revived his earlier series, written in the 1990s about the overeducated slacker private eye Simeon Grist. The new book, the first since 1995, is “Pulped.”

His 2014 Junior Bender novel, “Herbie’s Game,” won the Lefty Award for Best Comic Crime Novel of the year. His 2010 Poke Rafferty Bangkok novel, “The Queen of Patpong,” was nominated for the Edgar as Best Mystery of the Year.

The Junior Bender mysteries chronicle the adventures of a burglar who moonlights as a private eye for crooks. Six titles have been published to date, and “Herbie’s Game” (2015) won the Lefty Award for Best Comic Crime Novel. The other titles in the series are “Crashed,” “Little Elvises,” “The Fame Thief,” “King Maybe,” and “Fields Where They Lay,” which was on many “Best Books of 2016” lists. Coming in 2018 is “Nighttown.”

The Junior Bender books are presently in development as a primetime television series.

In 2007, the first of his Edgar-nominated Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, “A Nail Through the Heart”, was published.

You can find out more about Hallinan and his books on his Amazon author page.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – Fool’s River by Tim Hallinan”

    1. You’re welcome. I was so pleased to be one of the folks you were able to send an ARC to. It is fun to get to read a book before it is out on the general market.

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