First Line: The dusty braid of Christmas lights in the tiny window has been there for decades and has been plugged in all year round.
Poke Rafferty's wife, Rose, and his daughter, Miaow, are addicted to British television programs, and in self defense Poke now finds himself spending more time at the Expat Bar on Patpong Road. Back when Poke first arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, some of the old-timers at the Expat helped him make sense of the city.
Many of these men have been living in Bangkok since the Vietnam War, and now they've grown old-- and in some cases frail. They accept newcomer Arthur Varney into their midst without suspicion, not realizing that he's using them to get information about Poke.
Varney wants two things: money that Poke doesn't have and a person Poke will not turn over, and there is nothing Varney will not do to achieve his goals. As his actions threaten the very heart of Poke's life in Thailand, Poke finds some unexpected allies who are more than willing to give him a helping hand: those old-timers of the Expat Bar. But is their help going to be enough?
Timothy Hallinan's first Poke Rafferty book, A Nail Through the Heart, blew me away, and I've been a fan ever since. Rafferty has changed over the years. Where once he was a bit of a smart aleck, now as a husband and a father (and with a baby on the way), his thoughtfulness, compassion, and ability to think through difficult situations have come to the fore. In addition, his adopted daughter Miaow, a former street child, never fails to surprise or tug at the heartstrings. She gives every appearance of being a typical self-absorbed teenager, but don't let her fool you.
Hallinan deftly adds touching personal details about the lives of his characters amid chill-inducing action sequences. As we learn why Poke is reluctant to leave a too-small apartment and why the adoption his policeman friend is considering is fraught with problems, in the back of our minds lurks the deadly Varney. He's a man capable of anything, and it shows the caliber of man Rafferty is when-- at the first sign of danger-- the first thing he does is get his wife and daughter out of harm's way.
The Hot Countries resolves the story of Haskell Murphy, an unofficial trilogy begun in The Fear Artist; however, it's not a permanent resolution. His daughter Treasure, who's suffered tremendous abuse in her short life, is now a part of the lives of Poke, his family, and his friends. And Treasure is a young girl who inspires great compassion and great distrust. She is one more reason-- among many-- for me to continue being enthralled with the evolution of this series.
The Hot Countries by Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime © 2015
eBook, 336 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #7 Poke Rafferty mystery
Source: Net Galley