QUEEN OF PATPONG by Timothy Hallinan

Book Quote:

“I let one of the men rename me. A man gave me the name Rose – you didn’t know that, did you, Poke?…He said, this man, he said that Kwan was too hard to remember, even though it’s a good name and it means ‘spirit,’ and that the rose was the queen of flowers and I was the queen of Patpong.” She laughs, rough as a cough. “The queen of Patpong. A kingdom of whores and viruses. Death with a smile.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett  (OCT 23, 2010)

The fourth in Hallinan’s involving Poke Rafferty Bangkok thriller series finds the American travel writer enjoying family life with new wife Rose and adopted daughter Miaow.

Miaow, a former street kid, now attends a multi-national private school where, determined to be like everybody else, she’s renamed herself Mia. Rose is Rose, tall, edgy, beautiful, happy in her newfound domesticity. Then a blast from her bargirl past turns up and in minutes there’s blood drawn and terror in their hearts.

James Horner, big, handsome and with private military skills, has a special grudge against Rose since she once tried to kill him. Rose isn’t saying much more than that, at least not until Rafferty has a couple more run-ins with Horner and his equally menacing sidekick. As a writer, Rafferty tends to meet brawn with brain, which is a lot of fun for the reader and still generates plenty of bloody action.

But with her family falling apart and another innocent girl hurt because she helped Rafferty, Rose decides to tell her story – which takes up the middle of the book.

Hallinan’s empathetic prose keeps this familiar story fresh – a bright, impoverished village girl, who runs away to escape being sold by her alcoholic father. We get a vivid picture of the gradations of bargirls – Kwan (Rose’s real name), more beautiful than most, has more choices. Hallinan takes us behind the scenes, giving us the girls’ point of view. Kwan’s story, full of pathos, friendship, and street-wise education, punctuated with occasional cruelty and common perils, builds to a crescendo of terror that makes it clear that Horner will stop at nothing to kill her. So Rafferty has to act, not just react.

With the help of his police friend and fellow Shakespeare aficionado, Arthit, Rafferty devises a plan. Trouble is Horner isn’t just big, he’s smart too, and much more ruthless than Rafferty. Hallinan meshes action, craftiness and the Bangkok streets to build to a white-knuckled and satisfying conclusion.

Hallinan knows his city, immersing us in Rafferty’s milieu of bar girls, school plays, cops and neighborliness. Miaow’s adolescent rebelliousness, her ardent and sometimes heartless desire to leave her streetwise past behind and be just like every other middleclass girl, and her endearing smarts all ring true.

Fans will be especially pleased to know more of Rose’s back-story, but first time readers will find themselves right at home in this exotic world.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 60 readers
PUBLISHER: William Morrow (August 17, 2010)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
EXTRAS: Queen of Patpong video on YouTube
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October 23, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, Thailand-Bangkok

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