The Queen of Patpong
Review: Travel writer Poke Rafferty's life is turned upside down when a man from his wife's past shows up unexpectedly, threatening his family, in The Queen of Patpong, the fourth mystery in this series by Timothy Hallinan.
As Poke, Rose, and their daughter Miaow are enjoying a meal in a restaurant, two men approach their table. Rose, frightened but also disturbed by their presence, takes a steak knife and stabs one who had introduced himself as Howard Horner in the hand. "This is how you say hi?" he asks, clearly nonplussed. Poke, furious but unsure what to do, turns to Rose after they leave, demanding to know who Horner is. "Someone I thought I'd killed," she replies. Poke later learns that Rose met Horner when she was a young woman dancing at the bars in Patpong, the "red light" district of Bangkok. He had promised to marry her but on a boating trip, she discovers his true self, and manages to turn the tables, shooting him in the process. He disappears beneath the water and Rose escapes, believing he's out of her life forever. Except he isn't, now returning to claim what he thought was once his … and his alone.
The Queen of Patpong is somewhat disappointing as a novel of suspense (or thriller) in that it isn't more than it is. The primary plot here has an interesting, compelling storyline, one that probably deserves to be told, but it isn't all that substantial and feels more like a subplot, that the overall book would have been more dynamic, more thrilling if you will, had there been a separate conflict between Poke and Howard Horner driving the action. Indeed, about half the book — the second of its three parts — is backstory, a historical perspective of Rose's journey from her small Thai village to the big city, written more along the lines of a research project than a work of fiction. To be sure, the characters and setting are strongly drawn, the narrative crisply delivered, the dialogue true — hallmarks of a really well-written novel. Still, despite the passion the author clearly feels about this topic, not all that much happens in The Queen of Patpong; calling it a "thriller" is stretching the term far beyond its generally accepted definition.
Acknowledgment: HarperCollins provided an ARC of The Queen of Patpong for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
William Morrow (Hardcover), August 2009
ISBN-13: 9780061672231; ISBN-10: 0061672238
The Fear Artist
Soho Crime (Hardcover), July 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616951122; ISBN-10: 1616951125
Location(s) referenced in The Queen of Patpong: Bangkok, Thailand
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The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan — A Poke Rafferty Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 2010
List Price: $24.99