Leighton Gage's Reviews > The Fear Artist

The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan
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May 24, 2012

it was amazing
Read in May, 2012

You can read Tim Hallinan’s latest novel, “The Fear Artist”, as a standalone.
Can. But why are earth would you want to?
The other books in the Poke Rafferty series are such a delight that you’d have to be whacky not to read them. And, if you haven’t done so as yet, I daresay it’s only because you’ve never heard of Hallinan, or because you don’t like mysteries set anywhere else than in your own backyard.
Either way, in my opinion, you run a grave risk of selling yourself short.
But suppose you’re like me. Suppose you love “international” mysteries, and suppose you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next installment in this gripping, extraordinarily well-written series.
Is there anything about the book that might possibly disappoint you?
Well, yeah, actually there is.
If you’re anticipating another get-together with Poke’s wife, Rose, and his now-turned-troublesome teenage daughter Miaow, you’re going to have to put that pleasure aside for a while. At least until the next book.
They put in an occasional appearance in “The Fear Artist”, but they’re not really reunited with our hero until the very end.
Good thing, too, because while Rose and Miaow are out of rainy Bangkok, visiting her mother in Rose’s, remote “two buffalo” village, Poke is being pursued by Hallinan’s nastiest, most despicable villain yet.
Not that the author leaves him entirely without female, familial protection. In this one, Poke’s half-sister, Ming Li, is back – just the right person to help him through the difficult times – and that’s not only good for Rafferty, it’s also good for us, because, in Ming Li, Hallinan has created an absolutely delightful character.
I, for one, was delighted to see her put in another appearance.
“The Fear Artist” has deep roots, carrying us decades into the past, into the horrors of the war in Vietnam and the super-secret Phoenix Program – a plan to pacify the country by the indiscriminate torture and slaughter of people, often entirely innocent ones, who were suspected of being members of, or offering support to, the Viet Cong.
If you, like me, have a habit of reading before going to sleep, watch out for “The Fear Artist”. It’s like potato chips. You wind up promising yourself “just one more” – and, before you know it, you’ve finished them all. Chapters not chips.
Hallinan WILL keep you up until three AM. Fortunately, though, his novels don’t leave crumbs in your bed.
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