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The Fourth Watcher: A Novel of Bangkok    by Timothy Hallinan order for
Fourth Watcher
by Timothy Hallinan
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Timothy Hallinan continues his Thai mystery series in The Fourth Watcher. The first episode, A Nail Through the Heart, introduced readers to half Irish, half Filipino American expat Poke Rafferty. A travel writer, Poke settled in Bangkok, where he fell hard for former go-go dancer Rose, and pulled eight-year-old, street child Miaow into their caring orbit. By the end of that book, Rose had established a successful cleaning business, employing former whores.

Now, as tall, lovely Rose finally accepts a ring from Poke, and Miaow begins to trust her place at the center of their lives, a North Korean counterfeiting operation intrudes on Rose's business, while a specter from Poke's past quickly imperils all he has built and everyone he loves. The story opens as Poke is being tailed through Bangkok - by three followers of whom he's aware, and a fourth watcher who's unknown to him (the tail was arranged with his spook consultant, former CIA agent Arnold Prettyman as part of research for a new book on Living Wrong).

The counterfeiting investigation is led by bullying U.S. Secret Service agent Richard Elson, and only by the skin of their teeth do Poke and his friends (including honest cop Arthit) foil a corrupt police officer's attempt to plant evidence in Rose and her partner Peachy's Bangkok Domestics office. In parallel with this, Poke tries to find out why his father Frank, who deserted his family when Poke was sixteen, is in Bangkok. In so doing, he opens up a can of worms - or perhaps that should be deadly snakes - when an old triad enemy of his father's arrives in town and attacks people close to Poke, in order to get to Frank.

There's violence and death, and small Miaow's courage goes a long way to saving the day. Along the way, Poke manipulates Elson into helping him. He learns more about his father's reasons for deserting his American family for a Chinese one (there are parallels with some of his own life choices) and becomes acquainted with his beautiful - and exceptionally competent - half-sister, Ming Li. Don't miss The Fourth Watcher, an outstanding thriller well steeped in the exotic brew of South East Asian culture and politics.

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