Friday, August 13, 2010

THE QUEEN OF PATPONG - Timothy Hallinan

FIRST LINE: "Old cigarette smoke, cheap perfume, sweat."

THE QUEEN OF PATPONG is the fourth book in the Poke Rafferty thriller series, but this is really Rose's story. Rose is Poke's Thai wife and a former prostitute. When a man from Rose's past returns to frighten Rose like nothing has before, she reveals her life story to her family. The revelation convinces Poke that Rose's stranger is back for blood and Poke has to figure out how to defeat him before he destroys Poke's entire family, his entire world.

THE QUEEN OF PATPONG is undoubtedly Hallinan's most amazing effort yet. Rooted in the story of a true Thai child, Rose's story is heart-wrenchingly detailed while Hallinan emphasizes the human element of Bangkok's female prostitutes. Much like the earrings Nana bestows on the young Kwan, to the unknowing, the life can appear rich and glamorous but in reality it slowly and unknowingly harmfully alters those that possess it.

Hallinan's rich metaphors dig deep in THE QUEEN OF PATPONG. He parallels the Raffertys' ordeal with Shakespeare's The Tempest, for which Miaow is preparing to play the role of Ariel in her school play. As is often the case in a Poke Rafferty novel, Miaow enlightens her adoptive parents - and readers - with the insights of the unadulterated views of youth. Her spunk and growing pains offer the novel humor and warmth. And her relationships with her parents develop an overall richness to the entire series. Readers can't help but love this feisty little girl.

Once again the sights, sounds, even the smells of Bangkok come alive through Hallinan's words. Dialogue is impeccable. Characters are compelling. And the action is non-stop. Hallinan is a word engineer of the highest degree. He knows the exact combinations and relationships to construct the strongest, the most effective, the most stunning stories. Never experiencing his work is akin to never knowing the great works of nature - the Grand Canyon - or the amazing works of man - the Sistine Chapel. Sure you can live a life without experiencing them, but you're all the richer for it when you do.

I've been singing the praises of this series for years now. But never have I felt as passionate as I do with THE QUEEN OF PATPONG. The world needs to know Timothy Hallinan and the Poke Rafferty series. It should NOT be going unrecognized any longer.

THE QUEEN OF PATPONG is available in hardcover from William Morrow on August 17, 2010 (ISBN: 978-0-06-167226-2).


Dorte H August 13, 2010 at 3:04 PM  

I can see I will have to try Tim Hallinan. Not right now, though, I am on a read-my-TBR diet.

Jen Forbus August 13, 2010 at 6:53 PM  

Dorte, I started a colleague reading this series and when he saw I had the new one, he almost attacked me. They are awesome!

Pop Culture Nerd August 13, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

I'm still in the middle of NAIL THROUGH THE HEART so I couldn't read too much of your review (Rose and Poke aren't married yet!). Just wanted to say it's my first Hallinan and so far I'm liking it. Good to know the latest entry is a winner!

Naomi Johnson August 14, 2010 at 10:15 AM  

I've got two or three of Hallinan's books in my TBR and I will get to them, I will!

Timothy Hallinan August 14, 2010 at 11:12 PM  

Jen -- thank you so much. These past two weeks have been a marathon getting ready for pub date, and a review like this one not only renews my energy but it also reminds my why I'm doing all this stuff in the first place,

I'm really honored by the review.


kathy d. August 15, 2010 at 1:57 AM  

Just an inquiry here: Isn't this very painful to read about, as the fiction is based on reality about horrible sexual trafficking, especially of children and youth, in Thailand.

I want to read some of the books in this series, but am concerned about this one as I have seen and read a lot about this horrific situation, so I thought I'd start at an earlier book.

I'm glad Hallinan is bringing this issue to the public.

Jen Forbus August 15, 2010 at 9:11 AM  

Hey Kathy!

Yes, indeed. Tim is an expert at eliciting true emotion from his readers. He definitely doesn't hide from the realities. That said, he's also never gratuitous, and this isn't a documentary-type story. Also, I don't think you can truly appreciate the other emotions of this story without experiencing the uncomfortable element of the prostitution trade.

You'll appreciate this book so much more knowing the characters backgrounds and what brings them to this point. I think this is a series well worth reading in order even though you don't have to.

Jen Forbus August 15, 2010 at 9:12 AM  

Tim - best wishes with the release and events! Viva la ROSE!

Timothy Hallinan August 15, 2010 at 11:29 PM  

Thanks again, Jen. And Kathy, I think the only book that might give you real trouble is the first, A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART. In QUEEN, and in the others, I pretty much keep the worst stuff offstage; for example, when Rose, tossed into the bar, has her virginity taken, we don't see any of it. She leaves the bar with the man who's claimed her, and the next morning we see her dragging her way home, where one of the other girls, who understands what she's been through, has waited up all night with clean towels (so she can shower) and a cup of coffee (so she can talk about it). All the details come out in the discussion between the two women. I try pretty hard not to hit the reader in the face. If the scene above sounds readable to you, that's about as bad as it gets sexually, although there's some pretty baroque violence. But my wife could read it, and she's a butterflies and daisies type where entertainment is concerned.

CJ West September 12, 2010 at 8:34 AM  


Your compassion for the girls and their plight is evident in this book. I would strongly recommend it not only for the story, but for the special talent you have for writing flowing prose. It was a delight hosting you earlier this year.

Keep up the great work,

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