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The Fear Artist (A Poke Rafferty Novel) Hardcover – July 17, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Fear Artist

Voted one of Deadly Pleasures Magazine’s “Best Mystery-Crime Novels of 2012.”

"At the start of Edgar-finalist Hallinan’s heartrending, unforgettable fifth Poke Rafferty thriller (after 2010’s The Queen of Patpong), travel writer Rafferty collides with an overweight man around 65, possibly a German or American, on a wet Bangkok street. The man, whose head is oddly sunburned, manages to say a woman’s name before expiring from multiple gunshots. When the cops at the scene insist the man wasn’t shot, Rafferty knows he’s headed for trouble. Forced to betray his best friend, Rafferty turns for help to leftover cold war spooks from the other side as he uncovers evidence that the Pentagon has resurrected the Phoenix Program, which the U.S. used in Vietnam, to counter Muslim terrorists in southern Thailand. Hallinan gives his readers, who should be prepared for gruesome torture scenes, no chance to escape from his somber conviction that what America has become by pursuing the war on terror was never what America was supposed to be."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

—Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“The volcanic American sadist is the author’s best yet… Simply the best of a fine series of thrillers set in one of the world’s most exotic locales.”

“Hallinan not only writes a relentless-as-the-rain paced thriller, sprinkled with an off-beat, cynical humor, but the poignant emotional sides of the characters and the intelligent and beautiful plot and storytelling soak the reader's heart to the skin. The social issues, starkly and honestly portraying the exploitation of women and children will haunt you.... This is literary fiction of the first order told in the form of an elegant and intricate thriller.”
—Seattle PI

“Must-read crime fiction.”
—Mystery Scene

"[The Fear Artist] presents a view of Thailand's underbelly that few visitors ever see.” —Contra Costa Times

“Hallinan seems almost incapable of writing badly, and his Poke Rafferty series has been a personal favorite of mine from its inception. However, THE FEAR ARTIST sets an entirely new standard for the author against which his future efforts will be judged."

“Just put Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty novel The Fear Artist way high on my top 10 thrillers list. Violent, gritty, & moving.”
Nancy Pearl (via Twitter)

"A well-told tale, and one that is recommended." 
Midwest Book Review

“Papa Hemingway used to say, “Write about what you know.” Hallinan does a hell of a job following his advice.”
Criminal Element

“Absolutely the best book in the series.”
Murder On Demand

“If I gave stars, THE FEAR ARTIST would get ten.”
Murder By Type

Praise for The Queen of Patpong

"Taut, offbeat and fast-moving.... Hallinan's unlikely hero shines in this sometimes funny, always engrossing and undeniably authentic story that explores a dark and fascinating side of Thailand."
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Riveting, genuinely, moving, and entirely plausible.... A terrific page-turner."
Booklist, Starred Review

"You won't read a better thriller this year!"
—John Lescroart, New York Times–bestselling author of Treasure Hunt

About the Author

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of thirteen widely praised books, including The Fear Artist, Crashed, Little Elvises, and The Fame Thief. After years of working in Hollywood, television, and the music industry, he now writes fulltime. He divides his time between California and Thailand.


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Product Details

  • Series: A Poke Rafferty Novel (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Edition edition (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616951125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616951122
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Philip "Poke" Rafferty is an American travel writer who now resides in Bangkok with his Thai wife and adopted Thai daughter. Poke is leaving a paint store -- he plans to paint his home while his wife and daughter are out of town -- when he collides with a running man. A couple of gunshots later, the running man is dead in Poke's arms, a laundry ticket is in Poke's pocket, and the Thai version of Homeland Security is interrogating Poke about the man's last words. It doesn't take long for Poke's status to change from witness to suspect. As Poke tries to avoid arrest (or worse), he conducts his own investigation within Bangkok's shadowy world of former spies and current criminals.

Apart from Poke's half-sister Ming Li (who shows up in Bangkok to lend Poke an assist) and Vladimir, a morbidly philosophical Russian, the novel's most significant player is an unhappy spook named Murphy, a former operative in the CIA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. Murphy is training his creepy young daughter, Treasure, to be a spy -- or a psychopath. While Treasure is an interesting character who makes a less than convincing contribution to the plot, Ming Li enlivens the story with an irreverent teenage perspective. Vladimir provides the novel's comic relief, as does (in a small role) the despondent boyfriend of Poke's goth daughter. Each character has a quirky, believable personality.

This is Timothy Hallinan's fifth Poke Rafferty thriller. When Hallinan introduces a character from an earlier novel, he includes a quick summary of the character's relationship to Poke.
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Format: Hardcover
First Line: Two two-gallon cans of paint weigh about five times as much as he'd thought they would.

Rose and Miaow are out of town visiting relatives, and all Poke Rafferty has planned is getting the apartment painted while they're gone. But, like all best laid plans, everything goes downhill fast when Poke leaves the local hardware store with his paint.

There's noise, shouting, and a man barrels into Poke, sending them both down on the pavement. Holding the man in his arms, Poke realizes the man has been shot, and the stranger only has time to choke out three words before he dies: Helen Eckersley. Cheyenne. Within seconds the police arrive and deny that the man was shot. That same night, Poke is interrogated by Thai secret agents who insist on knowing what the dead man said, but he can't remember. When he is finally allowed to go home, he finds that the apartment has been ransacked. Not long after that, Poke knows that he's being followed.

The second time men in uniform show up at the door, Poke manages to give them the slip, and thus begins his life as a fugitive. It's not easy hiding from everyone who's looking for him, and as Poke tries to fly beneath the radar, he manages to gather bits and pieces of information and put them together. He's caught in the margins of the war on terror, and his opponent is a master artist whose medium is... fear.

I love Timothy Hallinan's books because he writes beautifully, with intelligence, and from the heart. As he said at the 2012 Poisoned Pen Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, the mystery is important, but at the heart of any story-- first and foremost-- are the people.
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Format: Hardcover
The Fear Artist is absolutely first class and should in my view become an award nominee.

The story starts with the impact of an express train and doesn't slow. The scene is Bangkok during the recent floods and our man is Poke Raffertey, the ex-travel writer well known by Hallinan fans, who always gets involved in intrigue, mystery and unwelcome deadly adventure. Fortunately, this time his wife, Rose, and adopted daughter, Meaow, are safely up country in Thailand where Rose is trying to deal with Meaow's young expressions and attitude of aloofness and budding individuality.

The plot involves a killing in Bangkok, in which Pole finds himself deeply entangled and thereby hunted and pursued by all law enforcement and certain US elements. The situation and mystery involves occurrences which happened decades ago in Vietnam during the US Phoenix program and current unrest in Yala, South Thailand. There is what would accurately be tagged as a black flag operation in planning with a background of plausible desirability.
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