Monday, August 03, 2015

A Nail Through the Heart

I have had an interesting (well, interesting to me, at least) experience reading Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty series.  The series, which began with 2007’s A Nail Through the Heart, is soon to be seven books long, but I only started reading it at book number five, The Fear Artist.  Since then, I have read book six, book four, and now finally book one.  As I always try to read a series in the order the books are published, this jumping around has, I think, given me a different perspective on the evolution of main characters than the one I usually get.

I do not mean to imply that Tim Hallinan’s plots are not first class crime thriller plots when I say that the main reason I keep reading the Poke Rafferty books is that I have fallen in love with several of the main characters.  Poke Rafferty, travel writer, has come to Thailand to continue his rather cynical series of travel books but he finds things in Bangkok that he very much needed: a good woman and a purpose for his life.  Rose, a Thai bar girl, would seem to be an unlikely choice for a wife, but Poke senses that there is more to Rose than meets the eye (and she certainly attracts the eye).  And then there’s Miaow, the little girl that Poke cannot bear to leave on Bangkok’s dangerous streets.  Miaow is a streetwise, precocious little kid who is wise beyond her years.  She has a mouth on her and a deadly sense of humor, and it easy to understand why Poke cares for her so deeply.

And there’s Arthit, one of the very few honest policeman in Bangkok - and Poke’s best friend.  These two have the kind of friendship that every man needs but seldom finds. Theirs is a relationship built on trust, honesty, respect, and a genuine fondness for each other.  And then, of course, there is Poke himself, a man whose very nature makes it impossible for him to ignore the evilness he sees on the streets of Bangkok.  As Rose said to Poke when they were discussing marriage, “You see a problem and your response is to fix it, like a broken air conditioner…” That’s Poke: Mr. Fix It.

The thing that surprised me about A Nail Through the Heart is that each of the main characters is already so fully fleshed out as introduced in this series opener.  More times than not, in my experience, an author will continue to add layers to the continuing characters for several books rather than to have them this refined in an opener.  They more often focus on plot as a way to ensure that readers will want to read the next book in the series.  Hallinan, instead, manages first time out to combine a top-notch thriller plot with unique, memorable characters.

A Nail Through the Heart takes a long, hard look at what is still one of the main industries of Asian cities like Bangkok: prostitution.  If the Bangkok bar girl lifestyle were not already bad enough, the sexual exploitation of the city’s street children puts Bangkok in a league all its own.  Poke Rafferty refuses to watch the exploitation of those too weak to defend themselves – and if he has to play dirty to rescue a child or a young woman, he is ready to do whatever it takes.


Bottom Line: The Poke Rafferty books may not be for the faint of heart or the easily offended, but readers willing to open their eyes to the real world are guaranteed to learn something in every book – even if it is only about themselves.

Post #2,523

8 comments:

  1. Well, I'm looking forward to reading this one. Just have to get it from the library or somewhere....

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    1. I love the whole series, Harvee. Since writing this review, I've read a couple of others and have now read all of the first six in the series...and, thankfully, I have an ARC of the seventh one in hand that I'm looking forward to. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

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  2. Hello from a fellow Poke Rafferty fan. I love this series, and I've been fortunate enough to meet and talk with Tim Hallinan a few times. He's an exceptional writer and an exceptional man.

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    1. Hi, Cathy. I really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment behind. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Tim but I've spoken to him via email a few times and I agree totally on your assessment of both the books and the man.

      Thanks again. Hope to see you here again.

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    2. Oh...I've been in and out many times. I just usually travel in stealth mode. I'll try to change that.

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    3. Please do, Cathy. I discovered your blog through your original comment...you never know what might happen when you leave tracks. LOL

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  3. Thank you SO MUCH, Sam. I've been deeply melancholy as I over the end of the series, which was my decision, and the way it was released, just sort of dropped into the heart of the pandemic, when there were no reviews being written anywhere, including the publishing trades, which always give me good, solid reviews, and I really NEEDED something like this. You've raised my spirits in a way my new book, a Junior Bender, deeply needed, because it was in danger of withering away, weight down by my depression. So once again, thanks. (And thanks to Cathy Cole for sending me to your site.)

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    1. Hi, Tim. It's been a while, so it's great to hear from you.

      I think we are all more than a little bit melancholy these days. We feel so isolated here that it's getting harder and harder to keep regular hours...what's the point of going to bed at a decent hour if the next day is going to be exactly like the day before.

      I can understand what you are going through right now with the timing of the release of this last chapter in the Poke Rafferty series. Honestly, I haven't read the book yet because I don't think I'm ready to accept in my mind that the stories are over. I'm already struggling with my reading because all the distractions being thrown at us 24-7, and I haven't wanted to let my mood taint my experience with the new book.

      A new Poke Rafferty novel, still unread, is like having money in the bank for later.

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