Fans of the Poke Rafferty series will, of course, know that The Fourth Watcher (2008) was Timothy Hallinan’s second entry into the series. As the novel opens, Poke has decided that his new family (Rose, the former bar girl he hopes to marry, and Miaow, the little girl he plucked off the streets of Bangkok for her own good) is the most important thing in the world to him. He wants to abandon the travel book series he’s been writing so that the three of them can settle comfortably into a stable lifestyle.
If only her were so lucky.
Rose and her business partner Peachy are finally having a bit of success with the maid service they run using former bar girls as cleaning crews. By now, with the help of Poke’s investment into the business, Rose and Peachy have given several young women the opportunity to leave the sordid lifestyle associated with Thailand’s sex trade industry. But now, the business has inadvertently become linked to what appears to be a North Korean counterfeiting ring – an operation that takes no prisoners.
And then things really get complicated. Two people from Poke’s past, one of whom he didn’t even know existed, come into his world just when he can least afford the distraction. Poke already has an American Secret Service man after him who would love nothing better than to lock him up for a good long time; now he has to deal with a reunion that will prove to be as dangerously deadly as anything he has ever faced in his life. He and Arthit, the Thai policeman who is Poke’s best friend in the world, are going to have to scramble if they are going to save the lives of those closest to them.
The real strength of the Poke Rafferty series is Hallinan’s well-developed recurring characters. Poke, Rose, Miaow, and Arthit all come with emotional baggage of their own but they meld into a unit that offers each of them exactly the emotional support, love, and friendship they need to finally make something good of their lives. It won’t be easy, but let it be known that they are still doing fine some five books (and counting, I hope) after The Fourth Watcher.
That said, because I have read the series out of order, I can also tell you that the books get even better as the series ages. This one emphasizes the “thriller” aspect of the plot to the point that it becomes a bit overcomplicated in the end. I prefer more “literary” thrillers (yes, I believe there is such a thing), and that’s exactly the direction Hallinan, over time, moves the Poke Rafferty series. Don’t miss ‘em.