Killed at the Whim of a Hat
by Colin Cotterill
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312564537
Date: 19 July 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Killed at the Whim of a Hat is the triumphant debut in a new series written by Colin Cotterill, highly acclaimed author of the best-selling Dr. Siri investigations, the most notable being The Coroner's Lunch. It is a titillating blend of poignant family drama and gruesome serial killer mystery with scads of witty, lighthearted humor. As a bonus, the unique setting is beautiful, exotic Thailand. I've read only one other Asian mystery and that was Shuichi Yoshida's Villain , set in Japan, which was highly enjoyable. Initially, I feared that the Thai names might hinder me, but it didn't. I found Killed at the Whim of a Hat to be an easy, exiting and fast-paced read. Once started, it was difficult to put down.
Initially, Jimm Juree is a whiner and complainer. Like many people, she hates the hand of cards that life has dealt her. She feels miserable living in tranquil Maprao, cooking and cleaning at her mom's resort, rather than investigating and writing about crime in the high tech concrete jungle of Chiang Mai. The excavated van and the brutal slaying of the monk offer her a respite from her humdrum life. Actually, the crimes reinvigorate Jimm's life in that they force her to reevaluate her priorities. In order to solve the crimes, she must rely on help from each member of her family, which is downright weird. Soon, she realizes the importance of having family; family is what makes life worthwhile despite one’s occupation or home address.
If you think your family is strange, then you should meet Jimm's. Her older sister, Sissi, is probably the oddest among them. Sissi was once Jimm's oldest brother, Somkiet, who later had a sex change operation. Despite all the beauty pageants she has won and her long string of handsome beaus, she is still unhappy. Living alone in forced isolation, Sissi earns her living as a computer hacker. On the internet, she has once again reinvented her life. Jimm's brother Arny is a bodybuilder who has used heavy weights, in lieu of surgery, to reinvent his body. Nature is slowly reinventing Jimm's mother, Mair, by destroying/corrupting her memory cells through dementia. It is because of this dementia that Jimm and Arny are compelled to forsake Chiang Mai and follow Mair to Maprao. Jimm's granddad Jah, a retired traffic cop, lives in the past but is pulled into the present when Jimm requires his investigative assistance; like Jimm, he gleefully finds himself in his element when faced with crime.
All this eccentricity and weirdness seems to be caused by Jimm's father who deserted his wife when the children were very young. No one speaks his name. There seems to be a lot of hidden animosity towards him. Jimm suggests that Sissi and Arny have sexual issues because of the absence of a male role model. The author may be saying that happiness is not found in transient conditions such as one's appearance or environment but rather in the love one shares towards one's family, neighbors, and even strangers. A neighbor has romantic feelings towards Jimm and a monk and a nun share romantic feelings that have spanned a lifetime. I can only hope that Jimm's father makes an appearance in a future novel. Perhaps he is falsely accused of a crime and needs his eccentric relatives to save him. It would be nice to see the Juree family come together as a whole body.
The mystery in Colin Cotterill's Killed at the Whim of a Hat is a terrific one. The monk's murder is just one of many committed by a vicious serial killer who genuinely unnerved me. The novel also explores controversial issues such as homosexuality in the police force, artistic integrity involving the photographing of dead animals and people and the posting of such lewd photos on pay-per-view websites.
Killed at the Whim of a Hat is funny one moment and horrifying the next. It is a rare treat that is highly recommended for fans of bizarre mysteries with exotic locales. Colin Cotterill has his work cut out for him if he plans to write a sequel that is as captivating as Killed at the Whim of a Hat.