Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan

I have traveled extensively, kind of. Via books I have been to Paris, Buenos Aires, Sicily, St. Petersberg, both Beijing and Peking, London, Cairo; well, the list could go on and on. But by far the most exotic locale I've ever visited in all of my reading is Bangkok.

Poke Rafferty is an American travel writer who has been enchanted and seduced by the exoticism of Bangkok. His fiance, Rose, is a former go-go girl (yes, that's a euphemism) who now runs a small business hiring out former working girls as domestics. Their adopted daughter, Miaow, is a street-smart urchin who came to them from unspeakable--but hardly unusual, in this city--circumstances.
As The Fourth Watcher begins, the three of them are living a blissfully normal existence--going to school, to a respectable job, writing a new book, enjoying being safe and clean and well-fed--when the bad shit starts to rain down on them.

An American Secret Service Agent appears at their door, along with several of Bangkok's finest. He's investigating an international counterfeit ring, and has set his sights on Poke's family because Rose had the misfortune to withdraw cash for her business's weekly payroll from a bank whose corrupt teller passed her bad bills.

Then Poke's long-lost father appears in town, and it's not just because he wants to make contact with his only son. He's being chased by the very nasty leader of a Chinese triad, from whom he has taken something extremely valuable.

What else can go wrong? Poke has a sister, Ming Li, who's their father's right hand. His friends are being taken down one by one. And he has no choice but to involve those he holds most dear in the mess that has become his life.

Hallinan writes a taut and exciting thriller. There are several subplots which come together in a most satisfactory manner. But the most satisfying aspect of The Fourth Watcher is its characters. They are brilliant--smart, flawed, often damaged; so human, so real. And Bangkok, corrupt, dirty, enticing, is the most seductive character of all. Poke Rafferty will never leave Bangkok, and with luck Timothy Hallinan will allow us to check in on him and his family from time to time.

Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion. 

1 comment:

Tim said...

Hi, RJG --

Thanks for being so nice to Poke and his friends and not-friends. What a great way for me to open my day.

Do I know you? A bookseller in SoCal? Have you received an ARC of Poke's new outing, BREATHING WATER, due in August/September? Would you like me to visit your store and bore your clientele when the book comes out?

Let me know -- at the very least, I can get you an ARC. You can get me at


Tim Hallinan