Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Nail Through the Heart -- Timothy Hallinan

Poke Rafferty is an American living in Bangkok. He writes travel books with an edge and lives with a former bar girl, Rose, and a former street urchin, Miaow. Both Rose and Miaow have the kind of pasts that, while common enough in Thailand, are almost impossible for someone in the U. S. to imagine. Even Poke, who loves both, can't fully comprehend them and what they've suffered. A boy named Superman, with an even worse past, comes into their circle, and Poke's life gets really complicated.

But that's not the main thrust of the plot. Poke has a sideline. He finds people. An Australian woman asks him to look for her uncle, and then another woman with a past, (yes, a terrible one, but not in the way the other pasts are terrible) asks him to find someone who stole something from her. The two cases are intertwined, as they so often are in crime novels, but not in the way you might think.

What Poke uncovers about the uncle and the woman is so bad that you might want to avert your eyes rather than read about it. It really is that horrible, so be warned. There are abuse and torture here for sure. How much love, kindness, and friendship does it take to redeem these things? That's part of what the novel's about.

Hallinan has lived in Bangkok, and he knows what he's writing about: the cops, the street kids, the sights, the smells. It's all here. The story is gripping, and the writing is fine. As good as the book is, I wouldn't recommend it to everyone because of the content. If you read only books about those nice little murders where nobody gets hurt, this one's not for you. But if you're looking for a nail through the heart, you won't find better reading. Grab it now.

1 comment:

Timothy Hallinan said...

THANK YOU, Bill -- this is great, very rewarding.

And thanks also for the endorsement on DorothyL