The Hot Countries by Timothy Hallinan — review

Bringing the story begun in two previous novels and concluding what the author terms an “informal” trilogy, “The Hot Countries” conveys more information about Poke Rafferty and his way of life in Bangkok than in the previous six books in the series. At the same time, a look into his friends and attitudes is deeper and more penetrating. The novel is more serious, without the customary cynical levity experienced previously. With good reason.

When Poke first came to Thailand to write a travel guide, he fumbled his way around the capital, eventually finding his way to the Expat bar where he met an assortment of characters, some veterans of the war in Vietnam. From them, he learned his way around town. The group is very close. Now into the bar comes a talkative stranger, seeking out Poke, but more importantly the girl, Treasure, and the money Poke rescued from a burning home in a previous book. Therein lays the plot. Can Poke and his cronies escape from this murderous monster and prevent him from achieving his goals?

This is a first-rate suspense story, written to keep the reader on tenterhooks. As usual, the odors and sights of Bangkok are relentlessly offered so that one can see and smell them as realistically as feeling the continually falling rain. And especially the poignant interactions of all the characters.

Highly recommended.

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