Friday, August 31, 2012

The Queen of Patpong

When I read a good book, I want to tell everyone about it. I bought this book on Apple iBooks and wrote the review for it. However, Apple is taking its time posting it. Did Apple eat my review? So until it appears on iTunes, here it is:

The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan

This book is a first class read from beginning to end. It’s about a travel writer named Poke Rafferty, who is living the good life in Thailand, along with his wife, Rose, and adopted daughter. But their lives gets flipped upside down when Rose’s dark past suddenly comes back to haunt her. (Seems Rose had been a popular bargirl in Bangkok’s notorious Patpong district.) This past comes in the form of a dangerous, psychotic ex-fiancee, Howard Horner, who is hell-bent on sadistic revenge, putting the whole family on the chopping block. He’s a villain that will curl your toes.

The Queen of Patpong is more than just a mere thriller; it’s a damn good story that is totally believable. Tim Hallinan really makes the characters come alive with some of the best dialogue and background stories ever written. (The story of Rose’s childhood is heartbreaking and all too true.) The hero, Poke, is a tough guy but no Rambo; he actually breaks, bleeds and grunts throughout the book. The cops, the mama-sans, the bargirls (heck, all the characters!) come across as complete human beings, warts and all. It would have been all too easy for this story to turn into a cliche “white man in mysterious Thailand” pulp novel, but in Tim’s hands, not only will you feel that you are part of the family, you will also come away with an understanding of what Thailand and its people really are.

That said, The Queen of Patpong is a thrilling (sometimes bloody) ride, loaded with a subtle sense of humor and a wonderful slap-dead finale. I found myself mumbling “yes... YES!” at the surprise ending. This book is one of a series of Poke Rafferty novels. It’s the first one I’ve ever read and I’m happy to see that there are several more. Read this book before it becomes a movie!

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