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Breathing Water: A Poke Rafferty Thriller (Poke Rafferty Mystery #3)

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  482 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Timothy Hallinan brings Bangkok, Thailand, to life in all its exotic, seedy, dangerous glory in Breathing Water, his third novel of unrelenting suspense to feature expatriate American travel writer Poke Rafferty. A breathtaking thriller in which innocence and evil, power and poverty collide on neon streets and in palatial Asian mansions, Breathing Water is Hallinan’s fines ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2009)
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Will Byrnes
Hallinan returns us to the Bangkok of his hero, writer Poke Rafferty. This will be familiar territory for readers of A Nail Through the Heart and The Fourth Watcher, the prior two novels in this series. And if you have not yet read those, do so. In BW, Poke is up against not only one of the bigger bad guys on the local scene but the entire ruling class. We see both intentionally grotesque opulence with its accompanying violent edge and the lowest forms of child exploitation. Da is a young girl w ...more
Oct 07, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poke Rafferty is an American author who writes travel books. He is living in Thailand with his wife Thai wife Rose and Miaow a street child that Poke and Rose adopted. This book is as much about family and love as it is intrigue. I have come to care for Poke, Rose, Miaow and Arthit who is Poke's best friend. Arthit is a Thai policeman. I was happy to see that Boo/Superman, a savvy street child leader, was in this book. He was featured in book one but not book 2. I hope he is in future books as w ...more
Mar 08, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Poke is given the opportunity to write the biography of a Thai Robin Hood, a poor man made very wealthy who gives back to the people of his province. But Poke and his family are threatened with death if he does write it, and threatened with death if he doesn't.

I don't know what I am most impressed with in Hallinan's books: the overall quality of the writing that brings Bangkok with all it's sights and smells so vividly to life, or the fact that he can write children better than anyone I have eve
Aug 16, 2009 Maddy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-reads
PROTAGONIST: Poke Rafferty, travel reporter
SETTING: Bangkok, Thailand
SERIES: 3 of 3

One thing I really love about crime fiction is that in addition to standalone individual books, a large number of authors also write continuing series. What's great about that is if you like a character or premise, you know there will be more to come as you finish each book. Each succeeding entry becomes like a visit with a friend that you are growing closer and closer to, almost like building a relatio
Aug 08, 2009 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Breathing Water – 5 Stars
Timothy Hallinan
William Morrow, 2009, 352 Pages
ISBN No. 978-0061672231

Hallinan has outdone himself with Breathing Water. The previous Bangkok Thrillers are outstanding books but Breathing Water is even better. The plot is intriguing and the setting exotic. The author gives the reader an excellent visual image of each character.

Poke Rafferty joins in a poker game set up by his friend, Arthit, who is a police officer and Kosit, another police officer. There are seven men i
Oct 17, 2009 Harvee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
"Behind every great fortune is a great crime..."is the premise on which this thriller is based.

The book is set in the Bangkok of today and filled with the complications from real life - a shaky political situation, great poverty and great wealth, street children and those who prey on them, love and death. This all makes for a great setting for a thriller, plus a good plot that pulls all the complexities of the city together.

A great read for those who love reading mystery/thriller novels.
Oct 06, 2010 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love that Hallinan brought Superman back in this book, and allowed us to see how he's grown--and what an amazing kid he is. This book is gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching, and you'll remember the story long after you put it down.

Some things that go on in this world are more than the mind can deal with. . . are we better off knowing or not knowing? Next time you see a story of someone adopting an asian baby, you'll worry and wonder.
Aug 19, 2010 Loren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The thriller gets a bad rap in the larger literary world. Scattered at every supermarket checkout lane, filled with bad guys and bullets, and typically read at a pace faster than a runaway Ferrari, such pulpy offerings are often viewed as the consummate guilty pleasure, something with which to fritter away an afternoon at the beach and toss when you're through. Only horror ranks lower in popular genre pantheon, but it has Stoker and Shelley to prop up its pedigree. It's
May 31, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the third installment of Timothy Hallinan's Bangkok Thriller series, BREATHING WATER finds Poke Rafferty trapped in a peculiar predicament. During a poker game, he won the right to author Khun Pan's biography. People have clamored for this biography because Pan has done what virtually no one else has in Thailand, risen from the ranks of dirt poor to grotesquely wealthy. Despite demand, this biography has not been written, and Poke quickly discerns the probable reason why. Poke has been threat ...more
Aug 27, 2010 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Breathing Water is labeled as “A Bangkok Thriller,” and therein lay the problem for me. Perhaps I should say “within me.” It wasn’t a problem with the writing. Hallinan is definitely a good writer and he clearly knows the ins and outs of Bangkok, both the landscape and the politics. He has an interesting way with words and will inspire you to pay attention to your own words when you write.

This paragraph from the inside cover will give you an inkling as to why I hesitated to read and why it took
Nov 06, 2014 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As usual, Hallinan does a good job developing believable, complex characters...especially the bad guys who, in this book are not evil incarnate but more, well...pretty typical south-east Asians. And therein lies the problem in this installment -- I found the story to be predictable and somewhat boring. Perhaps this was because I have lived in that part of the world and my review should be therefore taken with a requisite grain of salt.
Joshua Buhs
Apparently, I started reading this book a while ago and stopped--because about two-thirds of it was familiar. That I stopped a thriller a third of the way from being done and mostly forgot about it tells well enough how thrilling the book is. But it is solid.

I started reading Hallinan when I was going through my SouthEast Asia crime book phase. I know! There is such a genre, at least a developing one. I was excited. Southeast Asia fascinates me, and I like crime stories--so a good combination. F
Oct 20, 2016 Franny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty books are a strong, character-driven series with a vivid sense of place. "Breathing Water," the third book, is a tense, fast-paced, page turner that will have readers on the edge of their seats.
Jaden Terrell
Jan 10, 2010 Jaden Terrell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in thrillers, Asia, complex characters, taut storytelling, and beautiful writing
A few years ago, I read Timothy Hallinan's A Nail Through the Heart, which introduced as a secondary character a street child called "Superman." Superman was rough, unwashed, and defiant, kicking an addiction to yaa baa, and fierce in his protection of the small group of street children he looked after. (Miaow, Poke's adopted daughter, was once one of them.) I loved the book; I liked protagonist Poke Rafferty and his cobbled-together family; but Superman completely won my heart.

Now, in Breathing
Jul 15, 2010 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, the fourth book in Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty Bangkok series, will be released on August 17. This gives readers time to read BREATHING WATER, the third book in the series, before THE QUEEN captures our attention and our imaginations.

In BREATHING WATER, Bangkok is as much a character in the story as it is the setting of it. In the first eight pages, the author brings to life the worst sins of Thailand, the sexual exploitation of children as well as the kidnapping of in
Sam Sattler
Breathing Water (otherwise known as Poke Rafferty #3) is actually the sixth of the Poke Rafferty novels I have read. I normally do not like to read a series in a different order than the one in which it was published, but author Timothy Hallinan makes that easier to do than most series authors, so if you find yourself caught up in that predicament, do not worry too much about it.

That said, of the six Rafferty books I have read, Breathing Water is my least favorite of the lot. Perhaps that is bec
Debbi Mack
Nov 25, 2009 Debbi Mack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
BREATHING WATER is set amid the honky-tonk, flash and squalor of Bangkok. Told from multiple points of view, the main character is an American ex-pat writer named Poke Rafferty, who gets stuck between a rock and a hard place after winning a poker bet. Rafferty has a family consisting of – of course – a drop-dead gorgeous wife, Rose, who used to work as a stripper (but never a prostitute!) and an adopted street child named Miaow (precocious, naturally).

Other characters include a girl working for
Sep 13, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers
Hallinan, Timothy. BREATHING WATER. (2009). ****. An American ex-pat writer and journalist, Poke Rafferty, gets into a high-stakes poker game in Bangkok with a man named Pan, an extremely wealthy Thai businessman with a shady past. In spite of his past, Pan is popular with the people because he spreads his money around among the poor – especially native Thais. Although there are rumors about his past and how he managed to come up from poverty to the level he has currently reached, no one knows f ...more
Dec 01, 2009 Spuddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
#3 Poke Rafferty mystery set in Bangkok, Thailand. Poke gets into big trouble when he wins a poker game and the 'prize' is writing the autobiography of the loser--a rich, important man in Thailand, somewhat of a folk hero from the poor northwest of the country who rudely thumbs his nose at the rich, 'noble' class who have ruled the country for centuries. However, powerful people don't want the book written--and others want it written, but only the version they want to be told. Poke and his famil ...more
RJ McGill
Jun 18, 2009 RJ McGill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who enjoys a well written novel that isn't cookie-cutter-fiction
Shelves: reviewed
Breathing Water is an exceptional novel – showcasing Hallinan’s appreciation and understanding of Thai culture which is masterfully translated through the narrative, allowing readers a front row seat on a 300 page journey through Bangkok. (For many, like me, this is as close to Bangkok as we will ever get.) His portrayal of Bangkok brings the city right into your living room, which is no simple task as this is a city of fluid contradictions, where you can visit a message parlor type of establish ...more
Sep 03, 2009 Viccy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poke Rafferty is back. Poke and his friend, Arthit, an honest Bangkok cop, are involved in a poker game, trying to catch some criminals. Poke wins the opportunity to write the biography of Pan, a local hero who wants to run for political office, but has some skeletons in his closet that need cleaning. Poke is beset on two sides: one wants to keep him from writing the biography for fear of what it will expose about crime in Bangkok and another who demands he write the book to demonstrate that Pan ...more
Rachel Brady
Aug 27, 2009 Rachel Brady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hallinan's main character Poke Rafferty is between a rock and a hard place in Breathing Water, the third in this thrilling Bangkok series. In a poker game, Rafferty wins permission to write a high profile biography, but soon there's a catch. Someone threatens to kill him if he writes it. Another someone threatens to kill him if he doesn't.

This series probes upper class corruption in Bangkok while also laying before the reader a very human and tender look at all that is good in so many of the cit
John Falch
Aug 19, 2012 John Falch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second Poke Rafferty novel. I will probably read them all. In Breathing Water, the hero Rafferty is stuck between a rock and a hard place after he wins a poker game against a twisted, rags-to-riches Thai industrialist named Pan. Rafferty is forced to write a book about the man, which makes half of Bangkok want to kill him. The plot is full of sudden twists and turns, and the dialogue is delightful. Also, the reader gets a taste of exotic Thailand as a bonus. The shocking contrasts of ...more
It is a compelling novel of someone caught up in a course of events that are spiraling out of control for everyone involved … with little chance that anyone can emerge from it unscathed.
One thing which is definitely positive about crime fiction is that in addition to stand-alonel books some authors also write serials. So if you like a character or setting, you know there will be more to come.
Here we meet the Poke Rafferty series. The protagonist is an American living in Bangkok with his Thai wif
Kathleen Hagen
Breatheing Water, by Timothy Hallinan, b-plus, Narrated by Victor Devine, produced by audible inc., downloaded from

A late-night poker game in Bangkok nets American ex-pat writer Poke Rafferty the "opportunity" to write the biography of Khun Pan, a flamboyant, vulgar,
self-made billionaire with a criminal past and far-reaching political ambitions. Within hours, Rafferty, his wife, Rose, their adopted daughter, Miaow,
and Poke's best friend, honest Bangkok cop Arthit, have become dispos
Aug 11, 2013 Stan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second in this series, and it's another winner. Rafferty gets authorized to write a biography of one of Bangkok's most powerful and controversial figures. Before he even starts, he receives two calls: one threatening the lives of his family if he writes the book, and another threatening the same if he doesn't. This thriller is built around Rafferty uncovering the mysteries in his subject's past and threading the needle between the two opposing forces threatening him. Hallinan has crea ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Seana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poke Rafferty is a journalist, living in Bangkok with his Thai wife and daughter. Breathing Water is several books into the series, and so possibly not the best place to start, but I have to say that I didn't find my comprehension suffering by coming late to the story, and Hallinan is good at communicating enough of what's gone before to fill in the blanks. The story opens with a high stakes poker game, which leads Rafferty into a curious bargain. He's to use his journalistic skills to tell the ...more
Oct 01, 2013 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this book is well done. I enjoy the characters. Poke is a genuinely good guy who uses his skills to help children and the people he cares for. I love Miaow and the elusive "superman" makes an appearance which made me happy. This book pretty much covers every aspect of the dark side of Thailand. Politics, cops (good and bad), the extremely rich and extremely poor and follows Poke as he navigates his way though the mess that has been created for him. The only problem I had was keeping all ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Shelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent addition to this exciting series. Great characters. I've become attached to Poke, Rose and their daughter and some of the secondary characters as well. All three books have been gritty page-turners. The subject matter is usually tough but handled well. I always get wrapped up in the story and find the dialogue and the story lines both believable and well thought out. The Thai setting always provides an interesting adventure. I was reading another "thriller" that felt so absurd ...more
Poke helps his cop buddy with a poker sting and ends up in a gamble that threatens his family. The richest self made man in Thailand loses a bet and Poke gets to write his bio. However, Poke's family is soon threatened by competing forces who don't want the book published. Then he gets threatened if he doesn't publish it. Like Sherlock Holmes Poke relies on the unseen street children to help him out as he eludes the many forces tracking his daily activities. A good yarn that keeps you guessing t ...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. As of now, I've had seventeen books published by major imprints.

My newest, THE HOT COUNTRIES (October 2014), is the seventh in a series of Bangkok thrillers about an American travel writer named Poke Rafferty and his small
More about Timothy Hallinan...

Other Books in the Series

Poke Rafferty Mystery (7 books)
  • A Nail Through the Heart (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #1)
  • The Fourth Watcher (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #2)
  • The Queen of Patpong (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #4)
  • The Fear Artist (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #5)
  • For the Dead (Poke Rafferty Mystery, #6)
  • The Hot Countries (Poke Rafferty Mystery #7)

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