For the Dead is Timothy Hallinan’s sixth Poke Rafferty novel, and the series just keeps getting better and better. Maybe that’s because readers have grown so comfortable now with the Rafferty family (Poke; his ex-Thai bargirl wife, Rose; and Miaow, the little homeless girl they adopted as their own) or maybe it’s because Hallinan’s stories are just getting better and better – maybe it’s a bit of both. Whichever it is, every time I finish a Poke Rafferty novel, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one.
Interestingly, the fourth book in the series (The Queen of Patpong) can be said to be Rose’s book, and this sixth one is most definitely Miaow’s. Miaow has come a long way since she was plucked off the streets by Poke and taken into his home. The bright, but socially insecure, little girl is doing well in the private school she attends, and has recently discovered that she has both a love, and a real talent, for the stage. Things are going so well for Miaow, in fact, that she also has her first serious boyfriend, a Vietnamese boy who calls himself Andrew.
That relationship, though, is about to make life very interesting for the Rafferty clan because when the kids get hold of a used iPhone to replace the one Andrew lost, they get more than they bargained for. They also get all the pictures placed there by the phone’s previous owner – and someone in those pictures wants very badly to make sure that no one ever sees them.
Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty books never disappoint, and For the Dead is no exception. If the subgenre of “literary thriller” does not already exist, it should be created immediately because that is exactly what the Poke Rafferty books are. Although Hallinan’s plots are as intricate and exciting as those of any good thriller, what makes the Rafferty books special is the steady development and evolution of the author’s main characters. Poke, Rose, Miaow, and Arthit are wonderfully sympathetic and real to those who have already been reading the series for a while. But the lucky ones just might be those readers for whom the series is a new one because, come October 2015 and the publication of The Hot Countries, they will have seven terrific books to binge-read.