cover image Breathing Water

Breathing Water

Timothy Hallinan, . . Morrow, $24.99 (346pp) ISBN 978-0-06-167223-1

In Hallinan’s nicely paced third Bangkok thriller to feature writer Poke Rafferty (after The Fourth Water ), Poke wins a bet to write the biography of Khun Pan, a major-league bad guy, after a dispute with Pan in a poker game. When local papers run big stories about the deal, a phone caller threatens Poke, his wife and his daughter if he goes ahead with the project. Soon afterward, Poke is forced into a car by gun-wielding men who demand he write the book, but based on interviews with people on a set list. Poke’s efforts to keep himself alive amid competing interests move the plot along. His sangfroid in the face of serious peril, reminiscent of Cary Grant’s in North by Northwest , may strike some readers as out of place in a book that opens with a heartrending scene of a thug instructing a reluctant girl how to become a professional beggar by pinching an infant to make it cry to gain more sympathy. (Sept.)