A Nail Through the Heart Review
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American writer Poke Rafferty came to Bangkok to write a book about the seedier side of Thai tourism, but he ended up finding a home—and a family—there. In Bangkok, he found Miaow, an eight-year-old former street kid, and Rose, a former go-go dancer who’s trying to start her own cleaning business. Someday, Poke hopes to make their unusual little family official—by adopting Miaow and marrying Rose.

Everybody knows that Poke is a good guy—probably too good. Because when Miaow finds an old friend on the street—a violent young boy known only as Superman—Poke reluctantly agrees to help him. And when Poke’s friend, Arthit, a local cop, asks him to help an Australian woman find her uncle, Claus Ulrich, Poke once again agrees.

Soon, Poke finds himself on yet another manhunt—after the search for Ulrich leads him to a frightening woman known as Madame Wing, who offers Poke a lot of money—enough to help with Rose’s business and Miaow’s adoption—to help her find a man who stole something very important from her.

The deeper Poke gets into his search for information on Ulrich, Madame Wing, and even Superman, the more he begins to wonder if they might all be connected in some horrifying way.

Timothy Hallinan’s main character is an expert on the dark and seedy underbelly of Bangkok—so it shouldn’t surprise you that A Nail Through the Heart is often pretty graphic. It tells a haunting story about the darkest of pleasures and the pain and humiliation that people willfully inflict on one another. As such, it’s not always an easy book to stomach, but, at the same time, it’s beautifully written—and it definitely makes for a memorable and thought-provoking read.

This dark and captivating story isn’t an easy one to put down. It moves at a swift pace, with a horrifying new revelation around every corner. And it’s filled with strong yet flawed characters. Poke is a man with a less-than-spotless past who finds himself starting over, living a completely new life and learning to care for someone other than himself. He and his small family give the story a much-needed ray of hope. None of them are perfect, but they’re all doing the best they can to improve their lives—and the lives of the people around them. But not all of the characters in this book are what they seem to be. Hallinan skillfully blurs the line between good and bad, constantly working inside the gray areas to make Poke question himself and those around him. It’s sure to keep you guessing—and it’ll leave you wanting to read more from this talented author.

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