“Call us if this gets medical.”

The Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty ThrillerThe Queen of Patpong: A Poke Rafferty Thriller by Timothy Hallinan

The fourth in Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty series and the first one I’ve read. I’ve been missing out.

Poke is a travel journalist living in Bangkok, married to a retired bar girl with both now adopted parents to Miaow, a precocious prepubescent rescued from the Bangkok streets with hormones and attitude both kicking in in full measure. A very scary ex-lover resurrects himself from Rose’s past, a neat trick since she thought she’d killed him.

Part of the story takes place in the present, as Rose’s ex is doing his best to kill her, and part in Rose’s past, the story of her father’s attempt at selling her into sexual slavery and her rise to become the queen of the bar girls on Patpong Road, the reddest of Bangkok’s red-light districts. Rose’s story is almost unbearably painful to read but Hallinan’s craft is such that you can’t tear your eyes from the page.

You can smell the setting, the plot is twisty enough to keep a sidewinder happy, the dialogue is sufficient snappy

“Call us if this gets medical.”

and the characters are people you’d like to meet, especially Miaow, so long as you didn’t have to babysit her. There is also a school production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which is fun in and of itself

…the play’s eternal second scene, in which Prospero explains the whole backstory to his daughter, starting before she was born. It seems to take as long to tell as it did to happen.

but which Hallinan has interwoven into the main plot. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a crime fiction novel before this that used Ariel and Prospero to catch a villain.

And the icing on the cake? The most satisfying takedown of a bad guy ever. I’m going to have to go back and read the first three.



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