Another Poke Rafferty mystery is always a welcome event and The Fear Artist was no exception. As you might have guessed by the title, this volume is a little darker. It is also a little more political – not in the partisan sense per se but in the worldview sense. It has a strong message that the war on terror has gone too far and allowed America to lose track of, or ignore, its ideals. But this message, whether you agree with it or not, does not overwhelm the story.
An accidental collision on a Bangkok sidewalk goes very wrong when the man who ran into Rafferty dies in his arms, but not before saying three words: Helen Eckersley. Cheyenne. Seconds later, the police arrive, denying that the man was shot. That night, Rafferty is interrogated by Thai secret agents who demand to know what the dead man said, but Rafferty can’t remember. When he’s finally released, Rafferty arrives home to find that his apartment has been ransacked. In the days that follow, he realizes he’s under surveillance. The second time men in uniform show up at his door, he manages to escape the building and begins a new life as a fugitive. As he learns more about his situation, it becomes apparent that he’s been caught on the margins of the war on terror, and that his opponent is a virtuoso artist whose medium is fear.
Hallinan once again weaves a great story and continues to flush out these great characters (Poke, Rose, Miaow, etc.).