A Nail through the Heart (Poke Rafferty Series #1)by Timothy Hallinan
Poke Rafferty was writing offbeat travel guides for the young and terminally bored when Bangkok stole his heart. Now the American expat is assembling a new family with Rose, the former go-go dancer he wants to marry, and Miaow, the tiny, streetwise urchin he wants to adopt. But trouble in the guise of good intentions comes calling just when everything is beginning
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Poke Rafferty was writing offbeat travel guides for the young and terminally bored when Bangkok stole his heart. Now the American expat is assembling a new family with Rose, the former go-go dancer he wants to marry, and Miaow, the tiny, streetwise urchin he wants to adopt. But trouble in the guise of good intentions comes calling just when everything is beginning to work out. Poke agrees to take in Superman, Miaow's troubled and terrifying friend from the gutter. Then he agrees to help locate a distraught Aussie woman's missing uncle and accepts a generous payment to find a blackmailing thief. No longer gliding carelessly across the surface of a culture he doesn't really understand, suddenly Poke is plodding through dark and unfamiliar terrain—and everything and everyone he loves is in terrible danger.
The Washington Post
Brutal torture and equally brutal empathy define this excellent, if sometimes familiar, thriller from Hallinan (The Bone Polisher). Poke Rafferty, a travel writer turned detective, intends to settle down in Bangkok with his ex-prostitute girlfriend, Rose, and a young urchin, Miaow, when Miaow brings her troubled friend Superman into the household. While dealing with this intrusion, Rafferty takes on dual sleuthing assignments to help pay for adopting Miaow. The first case involves finding Australian Claus Ulrich, a hardcore bondage aficionado. When Rafferty meets the powerful and rich Madame Wing while investigating Ulrich's disappearance, she offers him $30,000 to find an envelope and the Cambodian man who took it. The only catch? If Rafferty opens the envelope, he'll learn information about Madame Wing that will force her to kill him. Rafferty stumbles through the clues like the foreigner he is, always on the outside looking in. Despite an overly leisurely ending, the rich depictions of Bangkok's seedy side recall John Burdett's visceral mysteries. (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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A Nail Through the Heart
By Timothy Hallinan
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Timothy Hallinan
All right reserved.
The Most Famous Invisible Jewels in Southeast Asia
Moon and river. House and trees.
The hard line of the roof lops the lower half from the rising moon. Across the river, the city of eight million shimmers like the ghost of a brushfire.
In the dark trees at the river's edge, a rustle of birds. In the palm of Tam's hand, the sudden spark-red pain of a splinter.
The shovel he has driven deep into the mud strikes something hard and stops. The laws of physics force Tam's hands down the wet wooden handle and drive the sharp fragment a full inch into his lotioned and pampered palm.
It is a measure of the care Tam takes with his hands that his first thought is, Thank God it's the left, giving him approximately one-fifth of a second of gratitude before the second thought lights up the night: The safe.
He straightens slowly against his aching back, hoping the water in the hole has muffled the sound of metal striking metal, but the man above him, the man holding the flashlight in his one good hand, has seen Tam's hands skid down the handle and bends forward and says, "Something?"
Tam wiggles the blade of the shovel. The surface, whatever it is, is smooth and slick, not a rock.
"A rock," he says. Then he says, for the third time, "I hate this water."
Not that hating itdoes any good. Even in a hole less than four feet deep, the water seeps in and saturates the dirt. It turns it into a sluggish, heavy soup, precisely the old red of dried blood, that slops over the sides of the shovel and splatters back down. And rises up from below: For every shovelful of mud Tam throws over the side, a pint of warm, muddy river water seeps into the bottom of the hole.
Bangkok is a river town, built around a network of canals radiating off the Chao Phraya, the silt-saturated River of Kings. The city's office towers, roads, and palaces float queasily on a tropical floodplain. Even in the dry season, the water is always there, pooled just beneath the dirt, just beneath the pavement. Waiting for some fool with a shovel.
But now the fool has struck gold. No, not gold. Jewels.
Tam leans on the shovel and gazes down into the hole to hide the elation in his face. There must be a way to get rid of the man above him for a minute. A minute is all it would take.
The moon has lifted its dappled face another fraction above the house: old Thai style, graceful angles of dark, heavy teak. Large and sprawling, it opens to grand verandas that gaze down across a sweep of grass to the river. In Bangkok only wealthy people have room for grass. They surround it with high concrete walls topped with shards of broken glass to keep people like Tam and the other man at bay. The house is unlighted. According to the other man—who says his name is Chon, although it is not—it is empty.
The emerging moon sharpens the house's shadow across the lawn.
The empty house, the glass-topped wall, the jewels: Chon had known many things. Not until this moment, though, leaning on a shovel up to his hips in muddy water, with his palm bleeding, does Tam actually believe that Chon knows the location of the most famous invisible jewels in Southeast Asia.
Okay, so maybe Tam can't make Chon leave. Time is still on his side. If he can slop around in the hole for another forty minutes or so, they'll have to fill it in, and then he can come back on his own. Chon has arranged for the watchman to disappear for only ninety minutes. When he made this point, Chon had pointed at the face of his heavy watch, gleaming in the moonlight above the ruined left hand with the crushed fingers on it.
The hand had made Tam think of a swatted spider the first time he saw it. The second time he looked at the hand, he noticed that three of the fingers had no nails. After that he stopped looking at it.
If Chon is right about what's in the safe, Tam will never have to open another one.
"So who is she, this woman?" he asks as he slips the shovel aimlessly into the mud.
"A general's widow." Chon is bent forward, beaming the flashlight's yellow cone straight down, trying to see through the reddish brown water that swirls around Tam's legs. Looking for the straight lines, the edges of the safe, that will announce that the hole is in the right place.
"What time?" Tam asks, just to make Chon move the light.
"Twelve twenty-two," Chon says, beaming the flashlight at the watch. "Jewels won't be much deeper." Is there a note of suspicion in his voice?
The jewels. Like a magic spell, the words ease the pain in Tam's back. Even his palm stops hurting. In 1987 a Thai servant, returning home after a long period of service to the Saudi royal family, brought with him a suitcase full of jewels that belonged to the princess he worked for. Prodded by the Saudis, the Bangkok police arrested the servant and held a press conference to let the jewels dazzle the cameras. After an unexplained delay of several months, the jewels were shipped back to Saudi Arabia, where they were promptly pronounced to be fakes.
The entire population of Thailand immediately concluded that the police had commissioned the manufacture of the fakes so they could either sell the real articles or give them to their wives. Since then the Saudi jewels have been the object of feverish speculation among Bangkok's jewel thieves. So when Chon told his story in the jail cell where he and Tam met, Tam's interest was fully engaged. A lifetime of relative virtue, he thought, was finally being rewarded. A policy of nonviolence. Stealing only from the rich. Gifts to monks. Pleasantries to his in-laws. His wife, the great treasure of his life, would be so happy.
Excerpted from A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan Copyright © 2007 by Timothy Hallinan. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Timothy Hallinan is the author of nine widely praised books: eight novels—including the Bangkok thrillers featuring Poke Rafferty—and a work of nonfiction. Along with his wife, Munyin Choy, he divides his time equally between Los Angeles, California, and Southeast Asia.
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