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Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller    by Timothy Hallinan order for
Breathing Water
by Timothy Hallinan
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Timothy Hallinan's Bangkok thriller series (A Nail Through the Heart followed by The Fourth Watcher) just keeps getting better, as evidenced in his latest, Breathing Water. The series stars half Irish, half Filipino American writer Poke Rafferty. Poke adores tall, lovely former go-go dancer Rose and together they have adopted street child Miaow. Poke's best friend is honest cop Arthit, whose wife Noi is dying from multiple sclerosis.

As the novel opens, Poke is in a poker game, that's being carefully manipulated by his police friends, partly as research for a new book, Living Wrong. Unfortunately a major player (uber powerful mogul Khun Pan) takes a seat, leading to misunderstanding and anger. To save Arthit's career, Poke makes a bet with Pan, and wins the right to write his life story, 'without interference'.

But though Pan himself cooperates, other all-powerful (in finances and politics) Thais not only interfere regularly but watch Poke and his fragile new family closely, and threaten their lives - one group if he shows any signs of writing the biography, and the other if he doesn't. Poke desperately seeks a way to hide Rose and Miaow from the watchers, while also uncovering the dark secret behind Khun Pan's rise to wealth and power, something that also left the man horribly burned.

In parallel with Poke's getting into serious trouble again - trouble that results in collateral damage to the innocent - readers meet Miaow's incredibly tough and wary friend Boo, who protects a gang of street children and funds them by working with corrupt cops to extort money from sex tourists. Boo rescues a teen girl, Da, who has been set to begging on the streets, along with a baby handed to her as a prop - she has to hand over most of her earnings to her minder.

Ultimately, Poke agrees to assist Boo and Da with their problem, in exchange for the help the street kids (a Thai version of Baker Street Irregulars) can give him with his. They, along with Arthit (on the run from his peers after someone on high decides to put him out of the picture), and Arthit's colleague Kosit execute a carefuly choreographed plan to keep Poke's loved ones safe. I highly recommend Breathing Water - and the other books in the series - to anyone who enjoys a masterfully written thriller with an exotic backdrop.

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