cover image The Hot Countries

The Hot Countries

Timothy Hallinan. Soho Crime, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-446-8

Edgar-finalist Hallinan’s lukewarm conclusion to the trilogy within his Poke Rafferty series finds travel writer Poke enjoying a spell of peaceful domesticity—his wife, Rose, pregnant; his adopted daughter, Miaow, rehearsing for a school play; his buddies at Bangkok’s Expat Bar always ready to bend an elbow. Then, an innocuous stranger walks into the bar, boring everyone with his garrulous blather, but leaves suddenly with a vague yet nonetheless unsettling threat directed at Poke. With the help of his cop friend Arthit, Poke determines the stranger is Arthur Varney, an experienced killer seeking $3.8 million he believes Poke acquired in the trilogy’s opener, The Fear Artist. Poke spends most of the story trying to dodge Varney and move his family out of harm’s way before an inevitable confrontation on the muggy, wet, neon-drenched streets of Bangkok. Though Hallinan’s deft touch with social commentary is a plus, this entry has long stretches with little happening, and the ending lacks the author’s usual punch. Agent: Bob Mecoy, Bob Mecoy Literary. (Oct.)