It's no secret that I'm a big Tim Hallinan fan. I've said so here and here and here and here. His latest Poke Raffery thriller, The Queen of Patpong, comes out on Tuesday! I had the good luck to read an early copy, so right now I feel kind of like I do when there's a dessert in the kitchen and I tell my kids to let Mom have the first bite to make sure the cookies aren't spoiled or anything. This here's some gooood cookies. :)
Hallinan delivers another gripping page-turner in his latest Poke Rafferty novel, The Queen of Patpong. There's a new man in Bangkok--pure poison, evil to his core--who has it in for Rafferty's wife, Rose. And in typical Rose fashion, she's too stoic and independent to tell Rafferty just what the hell is going on.
The novel switches between Rafferty and Rose's present day danger and Rose's private history, which we learn was both tragic and heroic. Readers will come away from The Queen of Patpong with a whole new respect for Rose, guaranteed. Other favorite characters--Arthit, Kosit, Miaow--are back too. Fans of the series who remember Miaow's obsessively parted hair will smile when you see what she's done to it now. :)
In this beautifully written story, Hallinan once again uses brilliant characterization and the backdrop of an amazing city to subtly show us another perspective of a misunderstood community in the streets of Bangkok--the girls and young women who dance in bars and support their families via prostitution. As he says in his author's note, and portrays through Rose's story, many of these women have done the best they can with a very limited number of choices. What Hallinan does here is strip away the collective grouping of "bar girls" and "hookers" and instead let us spend a few hours with Rose, Fon, Oom, and Nit. I found that, just like in real life, once you know people as individuals and begin to understand where they came from, a situation you thought you understood can appear in a whole, new light.
That's Hallinan's hallmark--making huge statements through the lives of his characters. This is an entertaining, tense thriller with sophisticated prose and characters about as human as they come. Fans of Poke Rafferty won't want to miss it, and new readers can start here if they like. There's enough back story to bring everyone right up to speed.