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A Nail through the Heart (Poke Rafferty Series #1)

A Nail through the Heart (Poke Rafferty Series #1)

3.3 814
by Timothy Hallinan

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Travel writer Poke Rafferty was good at looking for trouble—so good that he made a little money writing a few offbeat travel guides for the young and terminally bored. But that was before Bangkok stole his heart. Now the expat American is happily playing family with Rose, the former go-go dancer he wants to marry, and with Miaow, the wary street child he


Travel writer Poke Rafferty was good at looking for trouble—so good that he made a little money writing a few offbeat travel guides for the young and terminally bored. But that was before Bangkok stole his heart. Now the expat American is happily playing family with Rose, the former go-go dancer he wants to marry, and with Miaow, the wary street child he wants to adopt. Yet just when everything is beginning to work out, trouble comes looking for Poke in the guise of good intentions. First he takes in Miaow's friend, a troubled and terrifying street urchin named Superman. Then he agrees to find a distraught Aussie woman's missing uncle—and accept an old woman's generous payment to find a blackmailing theif. Soon, these three seemingly disparate events begin to overlap, pulling Poke deeper into dark, unfamiliar terrain. Gradually he realizes that he's been gliding across the surface of a culture he really doesn't understand—and that what he doesn't know is about to hurt him and everyone he loves.

Beautifully crafted, relentlessly paced, A Nail Through the Heart is an exciting and enticing read that will leave readers hungry for more from the gifted Timothy Hallinan.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Lipez
When Hallinan's personable protagonist, Bangkok travel writer Poke Rafferty, rescues a street urchin named Miaow from a life of degradation, complications pile up fast. They include a missing Australian whose computer files depict grotesque crimes against children, as well as a rich Cambodian matron whose own guilty secrets are on an even more monstrous scale. Hallinan's portrayals of Miaow and a pill-popping wreck of a boy known on the Bangkok streets as Superman are drenched with sorrow, but he also manages to keep his tale of blackmail, extortion and revenge spinning along at a speedy clip, despite the heat and humidity.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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
Library Journal
Travel writer Poke Rafferty settles in Bangkok and finds an exotic mess of trouble in this debut by a principal of a top television PR firm. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
T. Jefferson Parker
“A haunting novel...It’s fast, bold, disturbing and beautifully written. Hallinan is terrific.”
Washington Post
“(A) tale of blackmail, extortion and revenge...spinning along at a speedy clip.”
I Love A Mystery newsletter
“A well-written, fast paced, beautifully drawn thriller.”
Montgomery Advertiser
“Definitely worth a visit. Will keep you on the edge of your seat and clamoring for Hallinan’s next book.”
Mysterious News
“Terrific...this series has the potential to captivate readers for a long time to come.”
“Brilliantly conceived and beautifully rendered...Artful, compelling and entertaining. Kudos to Hallinan for an exceptional story.”
“A page-turner.”
“Well constructed, lively...full of misdirection, surprises, humor. A well-paced thriller.
“Dark and captivating. Sure to keep you guessing—and it’ll leave you wanting to read more from this talented author.”
“A page turner. Dark, thrilling and unforgettable, A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART is a journey you won’t soon forget.”
Contra Costa Times
“Excellent. This is a twisted story. You can read and read. And never imagine the end.”
The Brown Bookloft
“Rich with detail and sympathetic characters. From a very talented writer.”
“Timothy Hallinan is a tremendous writing talent. An entertaining read.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Poke Rafferty Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

A Nail Through the Heart

Chapter One

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 it does 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.

A Nail Through the Heart. Copyright © by Timothy Hallinan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

T. Jefferson Parker
“A haunting novel...It’s fast, bold, disturbing and beautifully written. Hallinan is terrific.”

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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Nail through the Heart (Poke Rafferty Series #1) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 810 reviews.
b3mom More than 1 year ago
I was really disappointed with this book. It was slow to take off but I keep reading. Then it gets to the point where you think it is all going to be wrapped up and it just ended. It was a huge let down.
georgevreilly More than 1 year ago
Pock Rafferty is a "rough travel" writer trying to form a family in Bangkok with ex-bar girl Rose and former street kid Miaow. When he is asked to look into the disappearance of an Australian expat after the Tsunami, he finds both a sadistic child pornographer and a Khmer Rouge torturer. Hallinan clearly knows a lot about Thai culture and brings the seedy back streets of Bangkok to life. Rafferty is no hard-bitten Marlowesque cynic however. He is a soft-hearted would-be family man, trying to bridge the cultural and emotional gaps between himself and his new family, while not getting them killed. Either of these story lines would have been enough. Somehow, Pock in his desperation manages to play multiple sets of new enemies against each other and comes out intact.
LynnUH More than 1 year ago
I am a fan. I found Timothy Hallinan purely by chance now he is one of my favorites.
janb223 More than 1 year ago
I got this Freebie for my NOOK but read the reviews before I downloaded it. I liked the book and the characters but what about the ending? I was totally taken by surprised when I turn the page and the book is over!! What happened to Superman or what happened to Horner?? Guess the author wants you to buy the next book in the series, though the preview does not indicate that this will be resolved. Frustrating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not get into the book. To me it was very boring and not worth the download
KenCady More than 1 year ago
As the Post states, this is a tale of blackmail, extortion and revenge spinning along at a speedy clip, despite the heat and humidity. It's also well-crafted, very interesting, and in its own way entertaining. It's a book with heart, even if nails keep flying at it. Highly recommended.
the_curious_reader More than 1 year ago
An unsettling picture of Bangkok and human nature combined with people whose lives and stories draw you close from the beginning, not just another mystery. This is No. One in the Poke Rafferty series. Bet you can't read just one as you will have to find out what happens next to Poke (travel writer turned detective), Rose (his former go-go dancer and exprostitute girlfriend), Maiou (formerly homeless and worse, now the adopted daughter of Poke), and Superman (also known as Boo, young boy formerly and possibly again homeless and worse). I almost went to Four Stars when the author didn't offer any resolution to the fate of Superman/Boo, then resigned myself to having to proceed to Book Series No. 2, 3, etc., to find out more.
KGpets More than 1 year ago
I picked this up when it was offered free for Nook, and I was pleasantly surprised. The subject matter is edgy and not the type of thing I usually read, but the author's skill and wit won me over. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
RFL1701 More than 1 year ago
Got this book for free but would have paid for it. The opening was a little hard to get started but once you understand the characters you'll love it. The plot makes this one a page turner. Buying the next book in the series as I write this!
Merrikat_Blackwood More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It had me hooked from the start. I can't wait to read the other books by this author. I would definatly recommend this book to others.
Dorobo More than 1 year ago
Having lived through some of the events in the story they brought the history of those wars back from memory. I was constantly on the seat of my chair, turning pages as fast as possible to the end. Everything doesn't turn out as one would hope, but that is real life!
Brodk More than 1 year ago
Interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. OK, a restless Westerner in the Orient, not original but could be a good start to an interesting story. And in fact it IS a good start; too bad the remainder of the book was too unrealistic to allow me to suspend disbelief. For example, he goes to see an old woman, guarded by menacing armed men, and when our hero sees the woman he is warned to be humble and obsequious. But, of course, he is not; he insults the woman. AND NOTHING HAPPENS!!! What?? This isn't how the world acts. In another episode he is on a motorbike, with a driver, and he is maneuvering in Bangkok traffic trying not to get shot and simultaneously to shoot, and then somehow gets next to the car which has his target, manages to shoot and then manages to leave. IN BANGKOK TRAFFIC!!?? I don't think so. I did like the interplay between our hero Pock and his girlfriend and a street girl he wants to adopt. The book should have been better than it was. Pock should have been dead several times in the book. I'll give a person one time to beat the odds, but not over and over again. Maybe the subsequent novels in the series are better.
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