BookBrowse Reviews Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill

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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 by Colin Cotterill
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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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The first novel in a humorous crime series set in Thailand

Cotterill's wry, irreverent sense of humor is a drone missile that quietly cruises from page to page, taking no prisoners. In varying degrees, everybody and everything is fair game. In short, this is my kind of book. So much so that while reading it I stopped several times to recite passages aloud to my husband.

To begin at the top, the book's title is from a speech given by George W. Bush in 2004 in which he said, "...free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat." Clearly Cotterill is a fan of the volume of malapropisms that has come to be known as "George Bushisms." This particular gem, as explained by protagonist Jimmy Juree, is where Bush had "fallen off the edge of the teleprompter again and he was caught somewhere between 'on a whim' and 'at the drop of a hat' and ended up with terrorists killing one another."

I couldn't have said it better if I tried, but that's the point; thirty-four year-old, currently unemployed Thai journalist Jimm Juree says everything better than I could - even on my best days - and notably better than many of her fictional counterparts in the humorous novel arena. Her first person narrative is sharp and savvy and altogether winning. Because, when it comes to sardonic humor, few can hold a cynical candle to a seasoned crime beat journalist. Especially one who was a mere heart attack away from "the senior crime reporter's leather chair," until she was unceremoniously removed from the running. Thus Jimm feels stunted, altogether stymied by her mother's decision to uproot the family, taking them from the joyously crime-riddled city of Chiang Mai to a nowheresville resort village along the southern coast of Thailand. With the exception of Jimm's older, transgender, ex-beauty queen sister, Sissi, the whole family is going. Mair (mother); younger brother, Arny; Granddad Jah; and Jimm set up shop at the Gulf Bay Lovely Resort and Restaurant, which is "a dump" in Jimm's words.

Bitterness over the forced move colors Jimm's feelings about her new home, referring to the South's inhabitants as unimaginative and the locale as mosquito-infested and boggy. Here the scribe-turned-kitchen-help does not suffer her new position gracefully. Until. Until the day that Old Mel discovers a buried VW van - complete with the skeletal remains of two corpses - on his farm. Jimm's life brightens. Then a few days later a monk is found murdered, donning a malapropos orange hat. Well. Life couldn't be better. Because, thank god, local police are as inept as those in Chiang Mai, and Jimm springs at the chance to unleash her prodigious crime solving skills, waking them from their nine month-long stasis.

Back at the newspaper her boss had once wanted to move her from covering crime to politics. She declined, reasoning that, "in Thailand, murder and theft and violence were tangible. Politics was all smoke and mirrors and, basically, silly." No silliness here. Not when there are business moguls (synonymous with "crime bosses" in Jimm's view) to take down and truth to be exposed in the most deliciously insolent manner possible.

In the grand cosmic scheme of humorous fiction this book rates a respectable 4 stars out of 5, but in my personal collection, it rates a 5.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review was originally published in September 2011, and has been updated for the May 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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