The Fear Artist
Review: Poke Rafferty is at the wrong place at the wrong time when a man is shot, falls into his arms, hands him a slip of paper and with his dying breath says, "Helen … Eckersley … Cheyenne" in The Fear Artist, the fifth mystery in this series by Timothy Hallinan.
"We're concerned with this man and what he might have said. You're the person he said it to, and I have to observe that you're leading an interesting life here. In times of crisis, we tend to clump interesting people together, at least to the point of asking them polite questions …"
The police do question Rafferty, assuming he's involved with the man, even though Rafferty claims, truthfully, that he was just buying supplies to repaint rooms in his house and happened to be in the way of a man being pursued by police. He astutely observes that the police don't seem overly concerned with who shot the man, only the person into whose arms he died. He isn't arrested but he's spent enough time in Thailand to know that that doesn't mean he's in the clear. Indeed, his house has been thoroughly, and professionally, searched while he was talking to the police. Believing his wife and daughter to be safe, visiting with his in-laws, Rafferty flees, all the while trying to understand why someone shot a man being chased by police, what his dying words mean, why the authorities think he's involved and how he can convince them that he doesn't know what they think he knows.
The Fear Artist is a very disappointing, surprisingly disappointing novel, mostly because the author is capable of so much better. He has previously written nuanced, intricately crafted crime novels featuring Poke Rafferty yet here the character is involved in the most pedestrian of thriller storylines: the innocent bystander drawn into a web of conspiracy. To be sure, there is a cast of well drawn characters, and the (politically motivated and driven) plot is nicely structured and paced, but plays out in an oh so obvious manner. Rafferty's actions are reliably predictable and nothing is significantly developed to elevate the book above the merely ordinary. To make matters worse, the book is written in present tense, a narrative style that rarely works, but one which is readily forgiven when paired with a compelling storyline, yet a style that becomes oppressive when so little of import is taking place. Bring back Rafferty the hero of the previous books in this series, a man whose intellect is matched by his ability to get things done; Rafferty the hapless victim stumbling through the present book is not all that interesting.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of The Fear Artist for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Queen of Patpong
William Morrow (Hardcover), September 2010
ISBN-13: 9780061672262; ISBN-10: 0061672262
Soho Crime (Hardcover), November 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616952747; ISBN-10: 1616952741
Location(s) referenced in The Fear Artist: Bangkok, Thailand
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The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan — A Poke Rafferty Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: July 2012
List Price: $25.00