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Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller (Poke…

Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller (Poke Rafferty Thrillers) (edition 2009)

by Timothy Hallinan

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894135,585 (4.1)3
Title:Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller (Poke Rafferty Thrillers)
Authors:Timothy Hallinan
Info:William Morrow (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Bangkok, Thailand, crime fiction, writers, corruption, gambling, families, Poke Rafferty

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Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan



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Breathing Water (otherwise known as Poke Rafferty #3) is actually the sixth of the Poke Rafferty novels I have read. I normally do not like to read a series in a different order than the one in which it was published, but author Timothy Hallinan makes that easier to do than most series authors, so if you find yourself caught up in that predicament, do not worry too much about it.

That said, of the six Rafferty books I have read, Breathing Water is my least favorite of the lot. Perhaps that is because I have also read all of Hallinan’s Junior Bender series, a series that is equally popular with fans of Timothy Hallinan books – and Rafferty’s predicament in Breathing Water is too reminiscent of the kind of thing that happens so regularly to Junior here in the U.S. (a wealthy bad guy blackmails Junior into doing something that he really does not want to get involved with). Too, there is a side plot, one involving the theft and sale of Thai and Cambodian babies to wealthy Westerners, that I found myself wishing had been the book’s main storyline.

Poke Rafferty is a travel guide writer who does his own research. Unfortunately for Poke, that research is sometimes dangerous and it often brings him into contact with some of Thailand’s shadiest politicians, pimps, policemen, and businessmen.

So…this time around Poke’s writing skills have gotten him into deep water, water so deep that even his wife and daughter might sink to the bottom with him. One of Thailand’s most popular folk heroes, who is in truth nothing more than a bottom feeding parasite, has decided that Poke is just the guy to write his flattering biography, one that the man hopes will propel him into high political office. When the “other side” gets wind of what Poke is up to, he gets equal pressure from them not to write the book. As Poke sees it (even though he would much prefer not writing the book), this is a lose-lose situation for him and those closest to him.

He expresses his problem this way: “If he goes in one direction, Rose and Miaow are in danger. If he goes in the other direction, Rose and Miaow are in danger. And ‘in danger’ is a euphemism.”

Poke calls on his old friend Arthit, that relatively rare thing known as the “honest Bangkok policeman,” for help, but Arthit has personal problems of his own to deal with. His wife is suffering from a debilitating disease and is finding it more and more difficult to deal with the painfully steady destruction of her body. Despite his problems, however, Arthit pulls himself together long enough to watch Poke’s back while Poke simultaneously worries greatly about his friend’s emotional wellbeing.

The central plot of Breathing Water is a complicated one and it demands that the reader pay full attention all the way through. The side plot is considerably less complicated but, as I said earlier, it is often the more compelling of the two. As always, however, I am happy with the long-term development of the recurring characters Poke, Rose, Miaow, and Arthit. Their evolving relationships are enthralling – and habit forming for the reader. ( )
  SamSattler | Sep 7, 2015 |
In the third Poke Rafferty story, Rafferty finds himself in a strange bind. He's won the right to write a biography of Khun Pan, a populist but immensely wealthy and corrupt power broker. Other power brokers won't let Rafferty out of his deal, but want to ensure the book paints Pan in a bad light. What's at stake? control of the country - and the lives of Rafferty and his family. The contradictions of Thailand and the effects of corruption and the gap between rich and poor are well-illustrated here, but the best part is the story of Da, a child who is given a baby as a prop for begging. Also a highlight - the street kid Boo, known as Superman in A Nail Through the Heart, returns. These are very tender-hearted books, but so well-written they never fall into sentimentality.
  bfister | Jul 2, 2010 |
BREATHING WATER is set amid the honky-tonk, flash and squalor of Bangkok. Told from multiple points of view, the main character is an American ex-pat writer named Poke Rafferty, who gets stuck between a rock and a hard place after winning a poker bet. Rafferty has a family consisting of – of course – a drop-dead gorgeous wife, Rose, who used to work as a stripper (but never a prostitute!) and an adopted street child named Miaow (precocious, naturally).

Other characters include a girl working for "the man" begging for money on the streets of Bangkok, because her village was destroyed after a dam diverted water from it. The girl – named Da – is given a baby, because people will give more money to a girl with a kid. She eventually falls in with a group of street urchins led by Boo (also known as Superman, for reasons best understood by reading earlier books in the series).

Rafferty is, for lack of a better description, a man's man. As such, he likes to play poker, which is what he's doing when the story opens. Rafferty is winning big against a weighty (both physically and politically) and famously jealous-of-his-privacy opponent named Khun Pan. When Rafferty wins Pan's permission to write his biography, this seems like a major coup, at first.

However, Rafferty starts getting threats from mysterious sources who tell him not to write the book, on pain of death or perhaps worse to himself and his family. At the same time, Rafferty is pressured by other forces to write the book – a negative one – or else. (Or else what? Well, bad things. To himself, his family, etc.) Events spiral out of control as Rafferty is kidnapped, threatened, beaten and struggles to protect himself and his loved ones from both sides.

Part of what makes this book enjoyable is not only Timothy Hallinan's intimate knowledge of the place he's writing about and the way he makes Bangkok both a colorful backdrop and a character in the story, but his depiction of Rafferty, who's streetwise and funny – but not perfect. Watching Rafferty muddle his way through his "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation keeps one turning the pages to find out how he'll deal with the next problem.

For more: http://thriller-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review_of_breathing_water ( )
  infogirl2k | Dec 8, 2009 |
In the third installment of Timothy Hallinan's Bangkok Thriller series, BREATHING WATER finds Poke Rafferty trapped in a peculiar predicament. During a poker game, he won the right to author Khun Pan's biography. People have clamored for this biography because Pan has done what virtually no one else has in Thailand, risen from the ranks of dirt poor to grotesquely wealthy. Despite demand, this biography has not been written, and Poke quickly discerns the probable reason why. Poke has been threatened: if he writes the biography, one side has threatened to kill his family; if he doesn't write the biography, another side has threatened to kill his family. And both sides will be watching him to see that he's doing exactly what they dictate. He's literally stuck in a catch-22. Poke needs to hold off both sides until he can figure out just exactly what it is he WILL do.

BREATHING WATER is the quintessential story of the haves versus the have nots. The most obvious level of this theme is found in the rich versus the poor. But Hallinan takes the theme to multiple levels with Poke's family, his friend Arthit's family, and the illegal baby trade, illustrating to the reader that money is not the only factor creating divisions between the haves and have nots.

Hallinan never fails to ignite his plots with plenty of twists and turns; BREATHING WATER is no exception. One of his strongest plot building devices is unquestionably character development. He builds strong, rich characters whose depth and interactions with each other work to intensify the plot.

Hallinan makes use of every word, every sentence, every paragraph. BREATHING WATER is definitely a tight, fluff-less plot that rewards its readers with an adventurous ride through the darkness of Bangkok. ( )
  jenforbus | Oct 2, 2009 |
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This book is dedicated to the memory of Raleigh Philip, who left behind an ever-widening wake of inspiration, and to Alicia Aguayo from her hijito.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061672238, Hardcover)

For American expat travel-writer Poke Rafferty, a late-night poker game delivers an unexpected prize: the chance to write the biography of a controversial, vulgar, self-made billionaire with a shady past and far-reaching political ambitions. The win seems at first like a stroke of luck, but within twelve hours of folding his cards, Poke and his family--his wife, Rose, and their adopted daughter, Miaow--have become pawns in a political struggle among some of Thailand’s richest, most powerful, and most ruthless people. The trouble multiplies when Boo, Miaow’s missing friend from the streets, reappears with an impoverished young girl trapped in a baby-selling ring. Trying to save them and his family, Poke finds himself at the collision point of powerful forces --forces that have shaped (and distorted) Thai life for decades. Set in the Thailand of today’s headlines, amidst massive political upheaval, BREATHING WATER is the most compelling Poke Rafferty thriller yet. It takes the reader beyond the illusion of order and stability and into a world in which the stakes are enormous and life is cheap--a world where love and courage may not be enough to hold back the darkness.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When Poke Rafferty is given the chance to write the biography of Khun Pan, a Thai billionaire, he discovers that there are powerful political figures who do not want Pan portrayed as a hero to the poor, while others want to expose his dark side for theirown advantage.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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