A Nail Through the Heart: A Novel of Bangkok
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A Nail Through the Heart: A Novel of Bangkok (Poke Rafferty Mystery #1)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  697 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Poke Rafferty was writing offbeat travel guides for the young and terminally bored when Bangkok stole his heart. Now the American expat is assembling a new family with Rose, the former go-go dancer he wants to marry, and Miaow, the tiny, streetwise urchin he wants to adopt. But trouble in the guise of good intentions comes calling just when everything is beginning to work...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published June 26th 2007)
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Will Byrnes
The tsunami has destroyed much in Thailand. Chon (not his real name) seeks a stolen treasure, Saudi jewels, and shows he is quite willing to kill to continue the quest. Poke Rafferty is a Yank who, having written a few books about how tourists can get what they need in some exotic places, has settled in Bangkok. He lives with Rose, a retired bar-girl who is trying to get her house-cleaning business going, and Miaow, a pre-adolescent street urchin who Rose and Rafferty have taken in. Life grows m...more
I don't usually write reviews here - just list my books and get suggestions. But this book really touched me - right time, place, whatever . . . The main character in Timothy Hallinan's A Nail Through the Heart tells this story to an abused streed kid:

I hate to give advice, so I'll tell you a story instead. It's a Tibetan Buddhist story. A young monk goes to the wisest man he knows, the abbot of his temple, and asks the same question you've just asked: Why is the world so hard and sharp? Why do...more
Remittance Girl
Having lived in Southeast Asia for over 12 years, I have to admit to having some trepidation about reading a book about a white guy named 'Poke'.

I shouldn't have worried. Hallinan offers up a marvelous blend of noir thriller, ethnographic study and a complex romance. I can honestly say I was engaged every minute of the 10 hours.

His portrait of Bangkok's seamy underbelly is spot on. And yet he takes the reader through it with enough of a detached eye to focus us on the central mystery. His main c...more
This was a complete page-turner! Filled with unpredictable suspense! To the sensitive and easily shocked reader...beware...it has it all...the good, the bad and the very very ugly. As with most books of this kind, I feel the shock value was necessary to the story. Of course it isn't always pleasant to read about these things and even believe they really happen, but it does make for interesting and intense reading and a reminder of how lucky we are....to be reading this and not living through it....more
I need to start by saying that it is a rare occurrence that I give any book 5 stars. I am pretty critical when it comes to characters, details and errors in proofreading. This book truly deserves the rating.

While some readers should be warned of the explicit and sensitive content, the author did a very good job with the storyline but I'm not easily offended. In my opinion, the shock value was needed to put the reader in a mindset the author wants you to be in, in order to love/hate the potential...more
Miss GP
Just finished A Nail Through the Heart and absolutely loved it. It has everything that I find important (and sooo hard to find) in a mystery/thriller: It's a page-turner, the writing is great, the characters are believable and written with great depth, the plot makes sense and is for the most part unpredictable. I've already bought the next three books in the series for my iTouch, and bought two dead-tree copies of the first one for friends. I can't wait to start the next one!

However... Anyone...more
A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART is a slam-bang detective thriller set in Bangkok, Thailand. If you like edgy, offbeat mysteries, this one is for you. Hallinan--himself a former Thailand resident--writes with confidence and authority about the country's sprawling sex industry and expatriate subculture. Hallinan resists most detective-thriller conventions and provides readers with conflicted, entirely-believable characters, complicated moral quandaries, ingenious narrative twists, and edge-of-your-seat a...more
Rob Kitchin
The strength of A Nail Through the Heart is the sense of place and contextualisation; Poke Rafferty is a travel writer in Bangkok and, likewise, Hallinan gives a good Western perspective and explanation of the city and culture. The story, however, suffers from a couple of shortcomings: I did not sufficiently believe in the main character, nor in the plot. Poke Rafferty came across as somewhat schizophrenic – hyper-sensitive and caring to the point of being sappy with his adopted family and certa...more
I have to admit--I was worried about reading this book. Worried Thai names and places would be confusing. Worried that the subject matter would be too hard to read. I couldn't have been more wrong, and can't recommend this book more highly.

Mr. Hallinan has crafted a tightly woven story that rings so true. Poke is written so well, I don't think it would be possible to feel his love and worry for Rose or Miaow more. His situation is a tightrope walk, and he does it with grace. Being a westerner in...more
Max Read
“A mystery thriller (Looking for Trouble in Thailand)”

Timothy Hallinan is a mystery series writer with three protagonists featured in his novels: Junior Bender, a career burglar, Philip (Poke) Rafferty, a travel writer, and Simeon Grist a detective. While the novels all entail some mystery and detective work the settings are distinctly different and the story lines intriguing and original.
“A Nail Thorough the Heart”, a Poke Rafferty novel, is the second of Hallinan’s works that I have reviewed:...more

In the wake of the tragic 2004 tsunami, travel writer Poke is trying to build a new life in Thailand with Rose, a former bar girl, and Miaow, a street child he wants to adopt. As a favor to a Thai policeman friend, Poke agrees to investigate the disappearance of the uncle of an Australian woman. It isn’t long before he discovers the man is a cruel pedophile and not the saint the niece believes him to be.

Complications mount as he takes into his home a boy known as Superman from Miaow’s past, acc...more
Having previously read BREATHING WATER and QUEEN OF PATPONG, I felt compelled to read A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, not only because Timothy Hallinan did such a great job writing those books, but because I wanted to see how the series started. Boy, do I wish I'd read them in order. (I happened to pick BREATHING WATER first, only because it was being "talked about" so much online at the time.)

Now, I finally know that Poke Rafferty (the intrepid protagonist) is not only a writer, but a writer who made...more
Poke Raffrey the hero of this interesting and disturbing tale set in THailand is living with a young asian girl he wants to adopt and sleeping with a retired prostitute who wants to start a maid service. On the lookout for money for to adopt the girl, he finds a job investigating two separate incidents, a stolen set of photos for a reclusive and very nasty old woman and to locate a disappeared uncle for a young woman from Australia. Both cases have unsavory characters and Poke has to delve deepl...more
Andrew Webster
It's a great read. Subject matter admittedly difficult, but parts of the narrative are exceptional: as when Rose, former Bangkok bar girl and now Rafferty's lover (who he's committed to marry), evokes with brutal candour the gulf between them and their two cultures:

She breathes out sharply in exasperation and turns to him: "How far is it from me to you right now?"
This is not what he expects. "I don't know. Six, eight feet."
She throws the pencil onto the desk. "It's a million miles, Poke. And...more
Beautifully written, this book has one subplot that deals unflinchingly with the seediest of the seedy Bangkok underbelly and the sad fate of some Thai children. For that reason, it is not going to be for everyone. But the characters are terrific and this book is well worth the read if you can handle the darker stuff. Just don't mistake it for a cozy, or anything.
Probably 3.5 stars. Good story with surprising twists. Definitely warrants favorable comparison to the better of John Burdett's novels (although there was variable quality; the main detective Sonchai was someone whose thoughts you always wanted to be privy too, no matter how ludicrous the plot) The story moves along quite well; I think I just wanted some more collateral cultural information to go along with strong plot and good character development. Pretty tough material in here about child exp...more
Jade Lauron
First of four in the Poke Rafferty series. This is my third re-read. I thought about moving it down to four stars from five, because five is usually reserved for books that have changed how I look at the world, and I could no longer remember how this moved or enlightened me. Then I realized that every time I read this book, I'm compelled to a) go to Bangkok, b) take in a stray kid or foster kid, and c) save the world. Even worse, I want to do these things heroically, all at once, all at the same...more
Ashland Mystery Oregon
A Nail Through the heart is the first Poke Rafferty mystery and you're in for a treat if you discover Timothy Hallinan with this work. Set in Bangkok, Thailand, Poke begins to assemble his makeshift family, an exercise in commitment, love and patience as Rose and Miaow learn to trust Rafferty. It's heartbreaking to read of Miaow's discovery of the boy Boo who escaped from Bangkok, trying to escape his life as Superman.

Hallinan presents impossible problems in his writing, problems that are insur...more
What a terrific book all across the board. This book was dark, edgy, fast and will remain with me for a while. The writing was suburb and I say that with much, much emphasis. I would read a passage and think to myself, wow, I could have not described an action or a feeling better than that, ever. And I could visually see every move with intense clarity. Yes, I've read many books that do a good job with descriptions, but this one, Timothy Hallian, the author, does a phenomenal job. Books like thi...more
Kathleen Hagen
A Nail Through the Heart, by Timothy Hallinan, A. Narrated by Victor Devin, produced by Audible Inc., downloaded from audible.com.

Poke Rafferty has an American father and a Fillipino mother. This gives him coloring that suits him well in Bangkok and many think he is Thai. He came to Thailand to write another of his off-beat travel books, but by the time he finished it, he had met Rose, a former go-go dancer with whom he has fallen in love, and a street urchin, Miaow, who he takes in and wants to...more
ICPL Staff Picks
I’ve written about how much I like John Burdette’s mystery series set in Bangkok. The exoticism that propels his novels also drives Nail Through the Heart– the Buddhist worldview, the rampant corruption, the casual acceptance of what is impossible in the west (i.e. hungry ghosts), and the sex trade with its corrosive effects on all concerned.

Poke Rafferty began as a travel writer, whose series Looking for Trouble in the Philippines or in Indonesia, has led him to Bangkok, where he seems to have...more
I think this book suffered because I read it after John Burdett's tres excellent Bangkok 8 (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, #1) which made me obsessed with Thai culture and their unique worldview (unique to a farang, that is.) This book was good but just couldn't compare.

Also set in Bangkok (shortly after the Indian Ocean Tsunami), this is the first in a series about American-born and half-Filipino adventure travel writer Poke Rafferty. He has settled in Bangkok and fallen in love with a former bar girl...more
Philip Rafferty, better known as Poke, is a travel writer living in Bangkok, Thailand with his household consisting of Rose, his girlfriend, a former go-go dancer and Miaow, a former street urchin. He longs to marry Rose and adopt Miaow but first, he has some issues to resolve. He has to track down Uncle Claus, for his distraught niece, Claudia; he has to find a friend of Miaow’s from her street days, named Superman and he has to locate a blackmailing thief for an old woman. Soon, all these task...more
A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, the first of Timothy Hallinan's Bangkok thrillers, balances family, love, loyalty, and hope against evil that destroys the spirit and sacrifices innocence to perversion.

I read A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART a few years ago. Tim's post, "Behind the Smiles", on the Murder is Everywhere blog, sent me back to the book and I am glad it did. I found things I missed in the first reading and I understand some things better because of what I have learned about Thailand through Tim's p...more
This mystery is, as the blurb indicates, set in Thailand. The characters engage in the type of snappy dialogue that you see in the early Robert B. Parker mysteries and in the Lawrence Block/ Matthew Scudder mysteries. The characters are also similar to James Lee Burke's characters in the Robicheaux series. The main character is an expat living in Thailand. His girlfriend is a former prostitute (sound familiar?) and he is trying to adopt a street child whom he has taken in (Alafair? TJ?). This se...more
It took me an awfully long time to read this book, but not because it wasn't good. I'm bad at reading stuff on my Nook, mostly because I often forget to charge said object. But that didn't make me lose interest in A Nail Through the Heart. I kept coming back to see how Poke was going to solve this case.

This book had a cast of great characters. I loved all of them. From Miaow and Superman, both young but mature beyong their years, to Rose and Poke, everyone had a distinct personality and I grew...more
Cathy Cole
First Line: Moon and river.

Poke Rafferty had been making his leisurely way around the world, writing a series of travel books for young and terminally bored males. First came Looking for Trouble in the Philippines, then Looking for Trouble in Indonesia, but when it was time to write Looking for Trouble in Thailand, he found the country had an unbreakable hold on him in the form of two women: beautiful former go-go dancer Rose, whom he wants to marry, and Miaow, a tiny young girl Poke rescued fro...more
Matt Carrell
This short summary appears in “Thai Lottery… and Other Stories from Pattaya, Thailand:

“Rafferty is a super smart travel writer turned detective. Living with an ex bar-girl; the magnificent Rose, he unravels complex mysteries, whilst battering bad guys and taking care of Miaow, his adorable adopted daughter. He's part Irish, part Filipino and in spite of the strange first name, extremely cool.”

Many books based in Thailand, have been written by visitors, people passing through who may have a good...more
RJ McGill
Oct 23, 2008 RJ McGill rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: to all detective, mystery, suspense thriller lovers
Shelves: reviewed
Poke Rafferty is a character that all suspense lovers will know by name after June 2007. With “A Nail Through The Heart” being the first of a Bangkok based series from Timothy Hallinan, there is much to be excited about! Unlike many of today’s best sellers, Hallinan holds nothing back! From the first chapter, this is a fast paced, thrilling journey filled with mystery and intrigue. To say this is one of those books that is hard to put down would be the understatement of the century. Hallinan has...more
This is a mystery/thriller set in Bangkok and since I visited Bangkok last summer I was most interested as I found the country and the people to be kind, peaceful and welcoming. This book, however, is set in another part of the city. It is very intense and there are parts that are very disturbing. Child abuse of the most graphic and cruel kind is covered here, but done so as a vital part of the story so while I was cringing at what was happening I also was very involved with the characters and w...more
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I'm a thriller and mystery novelist who divides his time between Los Angeles and Southeast Asia, primarily Thailand, where I've has lived off and on for more than twenty years.

My newest book, THE FAME THIEF (July 2013), is the third in a new series of mysteries featuring a Los Angeles burglar named Junior Bender. The first, CRASHED, came out in November of 2012 and the second, LITTLE ELVISES, was...more
More about Timothy Hallinan...
Crashed (Junior Bender, #1) Little Elvises (Junior Bender, #2) The Queen of Patpong (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #4) The Fourth Watcher: A Novel of Bangkok (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #2) Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #3)

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