The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan that was is a fast-paced thriller that takes place in Bangkok, Thailand.
This is the fifth book in a series starring Poke Rafferty, a man who somehow always finds a way to get himself into trouble. It’s not as if he’s inviting it, it’s just that trouble follows him wherever he goes, even outside a shop that sells paints in a street in Bangkok.
The author seems to know the city inside out and so does his hero. Poke has been living there for years with his Thai wife Rose and his adopted daughter Miaow.
As I already mentioned Poke has the special ability to attract trouble. What happens this time around though seems to be more than he can handle: a man virtually drops dead at his feet, as he’s coming out of a shop. He went there to buy some paints and what he bought was, well, business as usual. The man is a foreigner, most probably an American, and before he dies, from more than one gunshot wounds, he manages to whisper a name and a place in Poke’s ear, and drop a piece of paper in his pocket.
Poke is understandably stunned. And to make things even worse a TV crew is fast on the scene, so unless the world turns upside down he’s bound to become famous, at least for a day. However, that’s the least of his troubles, as the police arrives there soon enough and a couple of cops start to question him. He feels irritated but he tries hard to calm himself down, since he knows all too well that anger can get you nowhere.
At the moment he’s obviously considered a witness to a crime, soon enough though that is bound to change, and he’ll only have himself to thank for that; himself and his stubbornness and curiosity. Why, can’t he simply let sleeping dogs lie? Why does he have to ask too many questions? Why does he have to visit disreputable places and chit-chat with some suspicious characters, spooks of old, that can provide him with some answers, but who could also put him into more trouble?
Well, that’s Poke for you. As we follow him around Bangkok, in bars and hotels, in the streets and the malls and the police station, we get to know him better, and the better we get to know him the more we will understand his actions.
The truth is that before that man dropped dead before him, he felt happy and serene in an unlikely for his temperament way. His family meant the world to him, he had a good friend who was a cop and with whom he shared all his secrets, he had made peace with his past and started looking forward to the future; a future that all of a sudden seemed to be in jeopardy.
Poke is not a people’s person, but he’s a man of the people; someone who’ll do anything to help a friend, to save a poor soul from life on the street, to solve a murder. What we are is what we do, that’s what he thinks, and that’s how he acts. This time though he seems to have gone way over his head and in order to survive he has to seek some help. Some of it he’ll buy, most of it he’ll receive as an unexpected gift and a blessing in his life.