The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan

Book cover of
Book cover via Amazon

Last year I had this to say about Timothy Hallinan’s A Nail Through the Heart

[It] is a captivating and emotional novel. It is both an exciting expatriate detective novel and an exploration of the power of love and family in the midst of darkness and chaos. I look forward to getting to know Poke Rafferty better as the series continues.

Well, the release of the next Poke Rafferty novel, The Fourth Watcher, gave me just that chance.  And Hallinan has met my high expectations and put this series on my must read list.

Here is PW’s description of the plot in their starred review:

In Hallinan’s stellar sequel to A Nail Through the Heart, travel writer and sometime detective Poke Rafferty is researching the dangerous side of Bangkok for a book when he, his ex-prostitute girlfriend, Rose, and their adopted daughter, Miaow, run afoul of a U.S. Secret Service agent who accuses Rose of passing counterfeit money. The Secret Service is concerned, Poke learns, that the North Koreans have been flooding the world with billions of dollars of fake currency. Poke is then abducted by the beautiful Ming Li, who takes him to his despised father, Frank, who abandoned Poke and his mother many years before. When Frank’s mortal enemy, Colonel Chu, turns up, it’s clear that things are going to hell very quickly, and Poke and his beloved family are not going to escape unscathed.

Just as in the first novel, at the thriller level you have action and suspense with well drawn characters and the gritty and exotic Bangkok setting.  But on another level you have the continued exploration of the emotions involved in complex family relations.  Hallinan continues to flush out the relationships of Poke, Rose, and Miaow but ads in the backstory of Poke’s relationship with his father and the challenge of his newfound sister.  All of the conflicting emotions, and loyalties, poke feels add to the tension as he tries to get to the bottom of what he sees as a threat to his life with Rose and Miaow.

Hallinan fills the story with interesting characters.  You have a sinister and dangerous Chinese gangster, an ex-CIA agent with dubious loyalties, a gung-ho Secret Service Agent, and all the colorful characters that make up Poke’s life (his friend the Bangkok cop, Rose’s former exotic dancers turned maids, and now his father and sister).  And as noted, Bangkok is itself a character; the culture and the weather are ever present.

All of this makes for first rate thriller with a depth you don’t always find in the genre.  If you haven’t discovered this series, I highly recommend it.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

1 Comment

  1. Well, thank you so much. You have no idea how this lifted my spirits on a rare gray day in Southern California as I wrestle with a novel that doesn’t want to end. It just wants to get longer and longer and longer and . . .

    I greatly appreciate this very sympathetic reading of the book.

    All the best,


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