Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review of Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill (Quercus, 2011)

Jimm Juree was a crime journalist in Chiang Mai until her mother sold up their profitable shop to developers and moved the family to the rural coastal village of Pak Nam as the new owners of the Gulf Bay Lovely Resort and Restaurant. Nine months later and she’s sick of running a failing resort and craving the thrill of crime journalism.  Then two crimes come along together - two bodies unearthed after many years and the vicious killing of a local abbot.  Suddenly Jimm has two cases to investigate, one of which is trying to be hushed up by Bangkok detectives.  She sets about the task with the help of her reluctant bodybuilder brother, her sister that used to be a brother, her resentful grandfather that used to be a policeman, and a local gay, camp cop looking to make his mark, at the same time trying to keep her eccentric mother, who seems to be suffering the first stages of dementia, in check.

I’m a fan of Cotterill’s Dr Siri series set in Laos in the 1970s.  Although the characters are all a bit eccentric, they are all believable, warm and sit together comfortably, and there is a lovely sense of place and time.  Killed at the Whim of a Hat had none of those things.  The characters are a ragbag of caricature and are largely one-dimensional.  They seemed forced and false.  Moreover, told in the first person, the voice of Jimm Juree just didn’t click for me.  The real let down of the book, however, is the plot.  Neither of the two plotlines are well resolved, though the two unearthed bodies was more plausible than the death of the abbot, which really made little sense and relied on coincidence and Juree having a sister with way more resources and skills than the police could ever dream of.  Just about the whole storyline was nonsense and didn’t stand up to a casual read, let alone scrutiny.  Cotterill is a skilled writer and he can write with great warmth and wit, this whole story, however, felt forced and flat.  I’ll persist with the Dr Siri novels and will maybe return to this if reviews of future books suggests a return to form.



3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Sorry to hear this was such a disappointment for you. I happen to really enjoy the Dr. Siri novels myself, so was looking forward to trying this. Ma-y-b-e not...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, too bad. I had heard such great things about him but everyone has a bad day, I guess.

Rob Kitchin said...

Patti, he is a great writer. The Dr Siri books are good and fun to read. This one just didn't work for me at all. Too forced all the way through. So, I'd encourage you to try them. Start with The Coroner's Lunch