An Uncapped Pen

October 19, 2009

Breathing Water: A Bangkok Thriller by Timothy Hallinan

Filed under: Reading — cindylv @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , , ,

Bangkok. Where the bad guys are evil and the good guys drink Johnny Walker Black.

Breathing Water

Breathing Water, A Bangkok Thriller
By Timothy Hallinan, published by William Morrow, 2009

Slipping between the covers of one of Tim Hallinan’s Bangkok thrillers into the world of Poke Rafferty is like climbing into bed with an exotic, forbidden stranger. You find yourself horrified and intrigued, anxious and compelled, twitchy and reluctant. But you can’t help yourself. You keep turning the pages.

Once you’re in, Poke leads you to a place you don’t want to go, and you can’t wait to get there. He drags you into a filthy river of corruption, sex, lies and snakes. An unseen current tugs you along, pulling you under. You thrash and flounder, sputtering, until you realize you’re breathing water.

And you keep turning the pages.

You have no choice but to flail along with Poke, cursing the twists and turns, aching to finish, and knowing you’re gonna hurt in the morning. You pray desperately hoping that no one finds out what you’re doing, and at the same time, you can’t wait to tell everyone you know. You send up an apology to your mother, and you keep turning the pages.

Hallinan paints a vivid picture of the political scene currently unfolding on the streets of Bangkok. A place, as Hallinan says, where children are sold by the pound. You may ask why would you want to read a story about political corruption in some strange country thousands of miles away. Hallinan answers that question easily: Rose, Miaow, Arthit and Noi. He deftly interweaves multiple complicated storylines centered around the lives of these familiar characters. Longtime fans will cheer the return of Boo, aka: Superman. The introduction of two new characters, Da and Peep, will wrench your heart and leave you reaching for the tissues as you keep turning the pages.

As usual, his masterful writing disappears behind the story, peeking out on occasion to delight the reader with gems such as “Dr. Ravi’s knock, so feathery it wouldn’t wrinkle linen, is answered by something that sounds like a sea lion nailed to a rock.”

One of Hallinan’s greatest skills as a writer is his ability to wring emotion from your heart. You don’t merely read that Poke struggles to comfort his friend Arthit, your heart bleeds for your friend.

When you finally turn the last page, and sit weeping beside Arthit as he opens the envelope, you gasp, breathing air once again.



  1. Beautiful review, Cindy.

    Comment by angel — October 20, 2009 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

    • Glad you liked it, Angel! Now get back to reading A Nail Through The Heart! :^D

      Comment by cindylv — October 20, 2009 @ 8:13 pm | Reply

  2. Good Lord, Cindy, I’m overwhelmed. My wife found the review on Amazon this morning and read it out loud to me,and got choked up partway through. I got choked up myself, but more because of your writing than mine.

    This is so beautifully written, I’d share it with other people even if it weren’t about a book I wrote. As you know, BREATHING WATER almost killed me, and THE ROCKS is threatening to complete the job. Your review will make writing much easier for the next few weeks.

    Thanks so much.

    Comment by Tim Hallinan — October 20, 2009 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your kind words, Tim. I think I’m blushiing! You keep writing the books and I’ll keep reviewing them. And now, get back to writing. I can’t wait for number 4!

      ps: When I got home from California, I got out my notebook and blew the dust off. I bought some new pens, and I’m back at my table. Thanks for the nudge (or the kick in the pants).

      Comment by cindylv — October 20, 2009 @ 8:13 pm | Reply

  3. Cindy, this review makes me want to read the book, and I’m not normally much on thrillers. I’m going to track it down, and you may have earned Mr. Hallinan another dedicated fan!

    (Mr. H — thanks for giving Cindy the kick in the pants!!)

    Comment by Piglet, MPH — October 21, 2009 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Piglet! I can honestly say that Tim’s books are love stories (all kinds of love: passionate, parental, fraternal and enduring, et. al.). The things that happen to them are awful, but the escapes are THRILLING! Start with A Nail Through The Heart, please.

      Comment by cindylv — October 21, 2009 @ 3:59 pm | Reply

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