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Street Music: A Poke Rafferty Thriller

Review

Street Music: A Poke Rafferty Thriller

STREET MUSIC has been heavily publicized as the final installment in the long-running Poke Rafferty series. I hold out hope for more, being an absolute expert practitioner of the denial thing, but Timothy Hallinan wouldn’t say it was the last if it weren’t so (trust me on this). Taking his pronouncement at face value, it can be said with certainty that he has saved the best of himself for it.

For those who are just arriving at the dark, sweet party that Hallinan has been hosting for the past several years, Poke Rafferty is an expatriate travel writer who came to Bangkok to write a book and stayed. He married Rose, who worked the grim flesh bars of the city, and they adopted Miaow, a streetwise orphan who over the course of the series has blossomed under their patient guidance.

"[I]f it were possible to sustain some sort of low-grade, localized amnesia that left me without the ability to recall reading this book for all seasons, I would inflict it upon myself just for the joy of getting to experience it again for the first time."

Given that information about Miaow’s background has trickled out in dribs and drabs over time, it is only fitting that the concluding volume should concern its longest-running and most perplexing mystery --- how Miaow, in the midst of her childhood, found herself tethered by her mother to a bus stop bench in the middle of Bangkok. Much of this story is told in flashback due to what is happening outside of the Rafferty house, which is unknown (at first) to them. What is occurring inside is that Poke and Rose have Frank, a two-week-old son who Rose has named after Poke’s largely absent father and who has disrupted everything as only a newborn can do.

Poke, who proceeds through life with a deep certainty possessed of his own strong center, is at loose ends, feeling displaced by this new thing called “fatherhood” and being totally at sea as to what he should do. He is also experiencing guilt because he does not feel more than he does for his little son, a sad fact that is not lost on Rose or her former coworkers who have descended upon the Rafferty residence to help care for Frank, who is being held so much (though never too much) that he probably won’t learn to walk for a bit. However, there are forces at work that will cause the past to collide with the present on more than one front, and tragically so, though not without the ultimate opportunity for redemption. Whether or not that will be taken is a question not answered until almost the book’s conclusion.

It crossed my mind as I read the last page that, if it were possible to sustain some sort of low-grade, localized amnesia that left me without the ability to recall reading this book for all seasons, I would inflict it upon myself just for the joy of getting to experience it again for the first time. I’m really not kidding. It’s as funny, sad, horrific and memorable as anything you are ever likely to read. There are countless passages here that will stand up two, five or seven decades from now. It’s as good as it gets, and if you’re looking for something to read and linger over, you simply should not pass up STREET MUSIC --- or, for that matter, anything else that Hallinan has written.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 15, 2020

Street Music: A Poke Rafferty Thriller
by Timothy Hallinan

  • Publication Date: May 12, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime
  • ISBN-10: 1641291230
  • ISBN-13: 9781641291231