Killed at the Whim of a Hat
Review: Set in present day Thailand, Colin Cotterill introduces a new (series?) character in Jimm Juree, a former crime reporter who has moved from the city with her Mother and siblings to help run the Gulf Bay Lovely Resort and Restaurant along the country's remote southern coast, in Killed at the Whim of a Hat.
Jimm misses her former life, and is cheered to read about the mysterious discovery of a van found buried under a palm tree plantation up north, the skeletal bodies of a driver and passenger included. Determined to make an unofficial — and no doubt unwelcome — contribution to the story, she visits the scene and begins to take notes. The police, of course, are on top of things, saying that this was an accident, murder, or an act of nature … but the possibility of suicide cannot be ruled out. Separately, Jimm gets involved with the investigation surrounding the killing of an abbot, the body found wearing a very bright orange hat — "like the traffic cones" — with a red flower, and accompanied more ominously by "forty-six photos documenting the brutal murder of a peaceful man."
No doubt authors get tired of their series characters after a while and want to try something — or someone — new to write about. Cotterill's other series character, Dr. Siri Paiboun, is so memorable and delightful that it is probably unfair to compare Jimm Juree to him. And while there are similarities, Jimm doesn't resonate quite as positively with the reader as Siri does. It seems that where Siri complains but focuses on the positive, Jimm whines and sees the glass half empty. Siri is a well-developed, three-dimensional character that makes observations on what's happening around him, Jimm — and to a somewhat greater extent, her family — is more of a two-dimensional caricature that just sees things as they are. This comparison will mean nothing to readers, who haven't read the excellent mysteries in the Siri Paiboun series, so to that end it should be stated that the storyline in Killed at the Whim of a Hat is cleverly quirky, conceptually interesting, and skillfully composed. The whodunit-style cases that capture Jimm's attention are paced and unfold a little slowly, and while adequately covered, are overshadowed by the introduction of an eclectic cast of characters in an exotic setting. But in the presumed first of a series, that's perfectly appropriate, setting the stage for sequels that are likely to follow.
A final note: Each chapter opens with a quote by George W. Bush that on the surface, and at first blush, appears to gently poke fun at the former U.S. President's occasional misuse of the English language. Indeed, the book's title comes from one of these quotes. But other than this single instance, these quotes seem to have contextually little to do with the storyline and are not presented for humor or as political satire; rather, the purpose they serve becomes increasingly obscure as the pages turn. Some may speculate that the author is merely being petty and mean-spirited by including more than just the one quote necessary to provide the title — and indeed, that may be true — but given the obvious talent of this writer, one might expect that if this were the case, he would have been more creative and subtle about it.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Killed at the Whim of a Hat for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Love Songs from a Shallow Grave
Soho Crime (Hardcover), August 2010
ISBN-13: 9781569476277; ISBN-10: 1569476276
Slash and Burn
Soho Crime (Hardcover), November 2011
ISBN-13: 9781616951160; ISBN-10: 1616951168
Location(s) referenced in Killed at the Whim of a Hat: Thailand
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Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill — A Jimm Juree Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 2011
List Price: $24.99