Print Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Soho Crime (April 28, 2020)
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
BOOK BLURB: Eight years ago, Poke Rafferty, an American travel writer, and his Thai wife, Rose, adopted a Bangkok street child named Miaow, forming an unconventional intercultural family. That family has weathered extreme challenges—each of its three members carried the scars of a painful and dangerous history—but has stuck together with tenacity and love (and a little help from some friends).
Now that family is in jeopardy: the birth of Poke and Rose’s newborn son has littered their small apartment with emotional land mines, forcing Poke to question his identity as a dad and Miaow to question her identity as a daughter. At the same time, the most cantankerous member of the small gang of Old Bangkok Hands who hang out at the Expat Bar suddenly goes missing under suspicious circumstances. Engaged in the search for the missing American, Poke is caught completely off-guard when someone he thought was gone forever resurfaces—and she has the power to tear the Raffertys apart.
There are so many things to love about this character Poke Rafferty. I first met him in an earlier book Breathing Water, and I was intrigued by the nuances of character that emerged in that story. He’s just gotten better as the years have passed and his life experience in Bangkok has expanded. In this latest and sadly the last story, I learned another reason why I have always been drawn to this character. Just like me, and so many others, when life is confusing and uncertain, we turn to chocolate. And his favorite ice cream is chocolate almond. Yes! I love chocolate almond.
I also liked the fact that in this story he was able to be so incredibly vulnerable as he worked through the reactions to the birth of his son.
Poke Rafferty is surrounded by a wonderful cast of supporting characters, and I liked meeting Bob Campeau again in the opening chapter of the book. Campeau has been a member of the expat group that meets at Leon and Toot’s Bar, claiming the same stool with each visit and being such a fixture that Toots “occasionally dusts him.”
The relationship between the two men can be best described as one of love-hate, although neither would voice the love part. Still, there is something that bonds them together as ex-pats who abhor the Vietnam war that brought them both to this part of the world.
This first encounter ends with them coming to blows and Toots kicking them both out. Later, when Poke seeks him out to apologize for starting the argument that led to the fight, they are able to talk a little more civilly, especially when the conversation revolves around Miaow. At one point Bob says to Poke, “Probably easier to shoot you than to pay you a compliment. You changed that kid’s life, and just shut up about it.”
Poke responds, “You’ve got to be careful Bob. You’re going to make me like you.”
“Don’t worry,” Campeau says, “I’ll never go that far.”
This book lacks some of the suspense and tension of previous books, focusing more on the human relationships and offering background on how Miaow came to be orphaned. For me, that was okay. Even good. I haven’t read all the books in the series, but I’ve read several, and that was enough for me to get fully invested in these people and this family. It is good to have the mystery of Miaow’s mother’s past revealed. And now these people, who have been so very real to so many readers, can live out their lives in Bangkok in peace, knowing the truth that is filled with tragedy, but also undying love.
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 over-educated slacker private eye Simeon Grist. The new book is Pulped.
Hallinan divides his time between Los Angeles and Southeast Asia, the setting for his Poke Rafferty novels.