cover image The Queen of Patpong

The Queen of Patpong

Timothy Hallinan, Morrow, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-167226-2

Hallinan's compassionate fourth Poke Rafferty thriller (after Breathing Water) finds Poke and his live-in girlfriend, Rose, finally married, but a specter from Rose's past as a dancer on Bangkok's notorious Patpong Road comes back to haunt her. As a naïve country girl named Kwan, Rose fell for the charms of American Howard Horner, never suspecting that Horner's true interest in her involved something far darker than romance. Long thought dead, sly predator Horner is back in Bangkok to stalk Rose and all who are dear to her. Hallinan uses the menace Horner represents to springboard into a sympathetic depiction of Rose's life, revealing without condescension how a simple farm girl decided that the least bad of all the unappealing options open to her was to offer herself to a parade of strangers for money. Rafferty neither idolizes nor demonizes Bangkok's sex workers, instead casting an empathetic but incisive eye on a class of people often reduced to mere caricature. (Sept.)