Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty novels -- stories reflecting his fascination and familiarity with and insight into the environment of Bangkok and lives of its residents, its grim criminals, its drunken ex-pat American barflies, feisty street children, hard-workimg bar girls and a few honest cops -- have given me the sense that I could find my way around the Thai city despite the fact I've never been anywhere near that time zone. I'm glad I started with Hallinan's first Poke Rafferty book because watching Poke, his wife Rose and a Lao street urchin they've adopted has been a reader's pleasure. But you can, in fact, start anywhere in this series and enjoy delving into Poke Rafferty's world.
This writer obviously is sympatico with a wide variety of flawed human beings (his other wonderful series hero, Junior Bender, is a burglar by profession) and his compassionate outlook helps Rafferty draw out the best in most of the people he bumps into in Bangkok. But not all: his bad dudes and gals are really, really unpleasant!
And his role as father and protector of his wife and their adopted girl (now a teenager) often leaves Poke surprised if not dumbfounded at the depths of evil -- and sewage! -- into which humanity can sink. This latest Poke Rafferty is the best yet as he makes his way through an exotic underground where challenging a person's morality can easily lead to mayhem or murder. So far, Poke's sense of justice and his love for his family have been tested by some pretty gruesome bad guys and some quite unpleasant cops. But he also meets some bright lights, like a pretty transexual teenagers who has led the hardest of tough lives, who shine through the tawdry glitz of Bangkok's infamous red light districts.
I know you'll dig the Poke Rafferty "mysteries" as much as I do. Pick up "Fool's River," read it and then order the rest of the Poke Rafferty novels. And then check out Junior Bender! You'll be doing yourself a favor.