As I threatened to do earlier, here’s a review of a book that really took my breath away. Though it will not be on sale for several weeks yet, I’m sure you could pre-order it through your favorite independent bookseller.
The plot is relatively simple (for this excellent series). Rose is threatened by a man from her past, a man she thought she killed years ago when she worked as a prostitute and he systematically wooed her – so he could coax her to a remote place and kill her. Her husband, Poke Rafferty, and his good friend Arthit discover this man has probably killed lots of women over the years, but has protectors in high places.
The real heart of the book, though, is Rose’s story. As she confronts the man who tried to kill her, she faces her past: her childhood in an Isaan village, where her father schemed to sell her, her initiation to the bar scene in Bangkok, the community of girls who school one another in survival skills, and a handsome man’s seduction, leading to a terrifying confrontation. Rose’s story is framed by her adopted daughter’s struggle to figure out her place in the world. She’s ashamed of her dark skin, of her mother’s past, of anything that sets her apart from the kids at her private school. She is able to find her way to herself through learning her mother’s story and through her role as Ariel in a school production of The Tempest.
This is an amazing book: an honest and utterly absorbing depiction of women’s lives in Bangkok, showing their strength in the face of huge odds. And the writing is just lovely on every page. I don’t know how Hallinan is able to probe the emotional lives of his characters without it becoming overwrought or sentimental, but he does, with pitch-perfect prose. Highly recommended.