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Family dysfunction, Thai style

Cover of Killed at the Whim of a Ha
A review of Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill has been on and off my mystery radar over the years. I'd read his first book The Coroner's Lunch a while ago and came back to Cotterill every now and then. But much as I enjoy Laotian coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun, somehow Cotterill just never stuck as a must-read author for me. That may have changed with my discovery of another of his series featuring Thai journalist Jimm Juree.

Jimm loves her job as a reporter and is just about to be named head crime writer for the Chiang Mai Daily Mail when her mother Mair decides to sell everything they own and move the family to the village of Maprao on the southern coast of Thailand. Jimm is less then thrilled with her new life.

"We'd moved to a village surrounded by coconut groves called Maprao. That means 'coconut.' We're in the middle of a bay called Glang Ow, which means 'middle of the bay' and our nearest small town is at the mouth of a river. It's called Pak Nam. I probably don't need to translate that one for you."

But because her mother may be in the early stages of dementia and her brother Arny (a shy body-builder) can't handle everything on his own, Jimm makes the move. Now she helps run the dilapidated "resort" that Mair bought and wishes something, anything would happen. Her wishes are answered when a well-digging attempt unearths a VW van with the skeletal remains of two people. And if the discovery of the van, buried since the 70s, isn't exciting enough, the murder of a local Abbot gives Jimm even more of a chance to exercise her crime-writing skills. As she investigates, Jimm calls on her transgender brother/now sister Sissi for computer research and her taciturn grandfather Jah, a former policeman, for investigative tips. Cotterill who lived for many years in Laos and Thailand pokes fun at just about everybody, including Jimm. But along with the humor comes warmth and affection. These are people I will certainly visit again, especially when the next one is titled Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach. Really, who can resist that?

Oct 16, 2018