Thursday, August 15, 2013
Review of A Nail Through the Heart by Tim Hallinan (Harper, 2007)
The strength of A Nail Through the Heart is the sense of place and contextualisation; Poke Rafferty is a travel writer in Bangkok and, likewise, Hallinan gives a good Western perspective and explanation of the city and culture. The story, however, suffers from a couple of shortcomings: I did not sufficiently believe in the main character, nor in the plot. Poke Rafferty came across as somewhat schizophrenic – hyper-sensitive and caring to the point of being sappy with his adopted family and certain others, yet hardnosed, threatening, and at times violent with others. He’s either tiptoeing over eggshells or creating them and the two halves felt disconnected. The main two plotlines are interesting and unfold at a good pace, but too many elements are over-contrived and clunky, and there were too many subplots. It was if Hallinan decided to try cram as much action and emotive darkness into one story as possible. Sometimes less is more. This was a shame as it’s clear he’s a good writer and the set-up and setting have a lot of promise. Overall, a reasonably entertaining read, and I’d try the next in the series, but this felt over-written.