Hallinan returns us to the Bangkok of his hero, writer Poke Rafferty. This will be familiar territory for readers of A Nail Through the Heart and The Fourth Watcher, the prior two novels in this series. And if you have not yet read those, do so. In BW, Poke is up against not only one of the bigger bad guys on the local scene but the entire ruling class. We see both intentionally grotesque opulence with its accompanying violent edge and the lowest forms of child exploitation. Da is a young girl who is little more than a slave to the sociopaths who park her and hundreds like her on the streets of the city to beg. These are Fagins with no charm or scruples at all.
If the second book in the series was quite not up to the very high standard set by the first, Hallinan is back at the top of his form here. Fast-paced, riveting, the sort of book you hate to put down, Breathing Water adds considerable payload about Thai politics, mores, socioeconomic realities, and life. You will learn a fair bit and be thrillingly entertained.