I confess to having found Tim through the Writer's Resources section of his blog -- where he shares his insights and some great advice on something very near and dear to my heart: Finishing the Novel.
The Fourth Watcher is Tim's 8th published novel, so he really does know a thing or two about finishing novels!
Tim is a generous, wise and funny guy and after following his posts for a few weeks last year, I decided to pick up A Nail Through the Heart, which was the first of the two novels he's written that are set in Bangkok (The Fourth Watcher is the second). I don't read many thrillers, but once I started it, I couldn't put this one down.
This Amazon review of A Nail Through the Heart, although not written by me does capture my thoughts:
"A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, first in Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty series, is terrific.
Poke Rafferty is an offbeat American travel writer living in Bangkok with a Thai girlfriend, Rose--a former bar girl trying to start a straight business--and a Thai foster daughter, eight-year-old Miaow. The book opens with a murder among thieves. The plot thickens as we meet Poke and his menage, and Miaow insists Poke rescue her street-urchin friend, Superman. Poke reluctantly becomes a missing persons investigator when an Australian woman asks him to help find her uncle, who's apparently lost in the shadowy deeps of the vice-ridden city. Poke becomes involved in animosities left over from war and atrocities of a defunct regime, has to deal with institutional greed and avarice, and must confront the tragedies of Southeast Asia's thriving porn-tourist trade. He soon realizes his main goal is not so much to solve the missing-persons mystery, but to protect Rose, Miaow, Superman, and himself from the accelerating evil around him.
Why I loved this book: The characters are realistic and human, without being stereotypes, and the reader cares about them. The action is fast-paced, relentless, and unpredictable. The book captures the exotic feel of modern-day Southeast Asia, where Westernization of an ancient culture is overlaid by urban blight and underpinned by thousands of years of Oriental civilization and wisdom. Hallinan's writing is rich and descriptive, yet his prose never overwhelms the reader or slows the pace of the story. He's skillful at giving the reader information without clumsy info dumps, so the reader's never pulled out of the story. At the end of the story, I wished for a "prequel" novel, so I could learn more about Poke, Rose, Miaow, and Poke's cop friend, Arthit.
I can't wait to start the second book in the series, THE FOURTH WATCHER. "
Here's my Amazon review of The Fourth Watcher:
In the second book of Timothy Hallinan's beautifully written Bangkok series, we continue to follow Poke Rafferty, an American expatriate who is about to give up writing his "Looking for Trouble" travel series in order to settle down with his new family. In A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART we met Poke's girlfriend Rose, a former bar girl, Miaow, Poke's newly adopted daughter and Arthit, his police officer friend. Creating multi-faceted characters using deceptively simple prose is one of Hallinan's many gifts.
On Peachy, Rose's business partner: "The bank teller's eyes follow her all the way across the lobby: a woman in her late forties, wearing clothes that could provoke buyer's remorse in a seventeen-year-old."
Poke's observation about his father: "Except for a slight stoop, a lot of missing hair, and that shuffling walk, he looks surprisingly like the man Rafferty remembers from all those years ago. He has to be in his seventies, but time has barely laid a glove on him. It strikes Rafferty for the hundredth time that serenity and selfishness aren't that dissimilar. They both keep people young."
Hallinan gives us a view into the experience of being the westerner looking in from the outside, attempting to assimilate, but recognizing and accepting that he will never really "get it". One of the great benefits that come with reading these novels of Bangkok is a glimpse into eastern culture and philosophy and the often humorous view of westerners from an Asian perspective.
The city of Bangkok is a prominent character in THE FOURTH WATCHER and in A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART. Hallinan masterfully reveals a city made up of a unique blend of spirituality, carnality, ghosts, superstitions, the rich, the poor and unseen circles of power and influence.
In THE FOURTH WATCHER, the author deftly weaves together several subplots and skillfully brings them to a satisfying conclusion. One of the things I most admire about this writer is that when he explores dark and violent themes, the worst of both occurs "off screen" and within our own imaginations. Hallinan implies the worst, but does not hit his readers over the head with it.
A wonderful, fast paced read with deeply drawn characters I cared about, a richly textured setting and a gripping story.
So if you can stop in on Thursday, please do. Did I mention that I think there will be cake?
Note: I am now returning to the "real" offline world. This was the time sensitive post I mentioned when I went into internet exile, so I'll see you at Murder by the Book or back "out here" next week!