Excerpt from Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Killed at the Whim of a Hat

A Jimm Juree Mystery, #1

by Colin Cotterill

Killed at the Whim of a Hat
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2011, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2012, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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As to the identity of the bodies, Police Major Mana Sachawacharapong, the head of the Pak Nam police station, in whose jurisdiction the discovery was made, told our reporter, "The identities of the dead bodies and the causes of death are still being investigated. But I can tell you that this was either an accident, murder or an act of nature." The captain was not, however, prepared to rule out suicide.

They always did that, Thai police. Cover all the bases. Shot four times in the face over a period of twenty minutes? Don't rule out suicide. They'd recently found a head in a plastic bag suspended on a rope from a bridge in Bangkok and they hadn't dismissed the possibility of suicide. It gave those self-promoting senior policemen something to talk about to the press. Made them sound more important. Rather than admit "We haven't got the foggiest idea," the ranking officer of the day would go down the list of bloody obvious possibilities even if he hadn't visited the site of the crime. As long as you spelled his name correctly he'd talk to you the whole day. Perhaps you can see I have a certain dark feeling toward our gentlemen in khaki.

But the good news is, I was back. All right, I didn't get a by-line, the Thai dailies don't encourage reporter egoism, but word would get out that I'd risen from the dead. I might be living in the buttock end of the world but I could still sniff out a story. After nine months of highway traffic pile-up reports and coconut yield statistics, I'd been thrilled when I heard they'd discovered the bodies. Please let them be murder victims, I prayed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a bloodthirsty person. I just needed reassuring that man hadn't stopped displaying inhumanity to man. I'd begun to doubt it.

I'd been sitting in one of our grass-roofed huts overlooking the bay, gutting mackerel when I heard the news of old Mel's VW. Unless we get a few sea bass or a tasty anchovy, mackerel gutting's usually the highlight of the week in our cul-de-sac of a village. Kow, the squid-boat captain, stopped by on his Honda Dream with its fishball-dispensing sidecar. He's our local Paul Revere. You don't need a cell phone or Internet connection if you have someone like Captain Kow in the vicinity. I've no idea how he hears it all but I'd wager he's a good hour ahead of the BBC on most news.

"You hear?" he yelled. Of course I hadn't heard. I never hear anything. "They found a car with dead bodies in it under Old Mel's back lot."

He smiled. He's got a sort of mail slot where his front teeth ought to be. It makes you want to doubt him but he's invariably right. His southern accent's so thick I needed a few seconds to decipher his words.

"Who's Old Mel?" I asked.

"Got twenty hectares out off the Bang Ka road just before Bang Ga."

I was elated. This was the first burst of excitement I'd felt all year. I had to get over there. My little brother, Arnon, playfully known as Arny, was out somewhere with the truck and Granddad Jah had the motorcycle. I didn't have any choice but to use Mair's old auntie bicycle with the metal basket on the front. I shouted to my mother that I was taking it and heard a faint "Make sure you put petrol in it" from deep inside our shop. Right, Mair.

Apart from the bridge over the Lang Suan river the roads are mostly flat around here, all palm and coconut plantations. Pleasant enough if you like green - I don't. There are limestone cliffs sticking up here and there, making the place look untidy, but not much in the way of hills. Old Mel's place was a good ten kilometers away and exercise wasn't one of my strong points. But you know how it is when you get the scent of blood in your nostrils. My little legs pumped away at the pedals and the adrenaline coursed through my veins and, in a sudden bubbly rush of clarity, my mind became filled with all my glory moments. The marvelous crimes I'd reported; the numerous bodies I'd stepped over - being careful not to tread in the blood - the castrated cuckolds, the jimmied ATMs, the druggies, the lesbian high-rise suicides, the motorcycle hit squads, the truck smugglers, the mysterious backpacker mutilations, the high-speed school-bus-race crashes, philandering fake fortune tellers, gangsters I'd exposed (albeit anonymously), stabbings, stranglings, garrotings... Oh, I could go on.

Excerpted from Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. Copyright © 2011 by Colin Cotterill. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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