A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.
The Fear Artist, by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime):
Poke Rafferty just can’t stay out trouble. And that’s a good thing, for the series in which this Bangkok-based travel writer stars requires constant nourishment with bizarre homicides and assorted other curious crimes. The Fear Artist is the fifth Rafferty book, following 2010’s outstanding installment, The Queen of Patpong. This new story finds Rafferty out buying paint for the apartment he shares with his wife, Rose, and their adopted daughter, Miaow. But that domestic task is interrupted by anti-government demonstrators, who rush by Rafferty as they’re dispersed by police. One of those runners crashes into our hero--only to die in Rafferty’s arms, the victim of several bullet wounds. Before he breathes his last, however, the man utters three words: Helen Eckersley, Cheyenne. Rafferty is subsequently questioned by Thai secrets agents, and when he returns to his apartment, he discovers the place ransacked. Rafferty sends a warning to Rose, telling her to stay out of the city until further notice, and then becomes a fugitive, dodging authorities bent on linking him to the dead man and turning for help to people he can trust--and even others he cannot. Winning his life and peace back will depend on Rafferty figuring out what part the dead man played in a drama that involves Muslim insurgents, the so-called war on terror, and an ugly episode from the Vietnam War. The Fear Artist boasts political complications and knotty character relationships, plus an adversary of menacing proportions.