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Killed at the Whim of a Hat    by Colin Cotterill order for
Killed at the Whim of a Hat
by Colin Cotterill
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I love Colin Cotterill's mystery series starring septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun (the country's sole coroner) in Laos, but had not come across his Jimm Juree books before. Killed at the Whim of a Hat is a delight to read, especially the bizarre quotations from George W. Bush that introduce each chapter (Jimm has been taking an M.A. in Critical English and Bush is her assigned subject in her course on Public Oration and Oral Improvisation).

Jimm is an ambitious Thai journalist, who was 'one seat away from the senior crime reporter's leather chair' in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. She lived there with her family - Granddad Jah (a retired policeman), mother Mair, her sensitive bodybuilder of a younger brother Arny, and her sister Sissi (who was her elder brother Somkiet before the sex change and is now a cyberworld criminal). Then Mair (who had been showing some signs of dementia and recently rediscovered Buddhism) unexpectedly sold up and moved to the south.

They all accompany her to her 'lovely resort hotel' (which turns out to be anything but), except for Sissi, but with very low expectations. However, Jimm is happier once corpses begin showing up in her neighborhood and she sniffs out big stories in the wind. The first bodies appear after Old Mel hires a laborer to dig a well - what he uncovers are two skeletons in a camper van. Foul play? Seems likely. The second death is in a monastery, whose abbott is suspected of the murder of a visiting abbott, because of the latter's investigation into his supposed fornication with a nun.

The mysteries are unusual and their resolution surprising, but the family story is even better. In their new life, Jimm starts to uncover astonishing family secrets, and also grows to realize that there's a lot more of interest in their pastoral surroundings - and their inhabitants - than was apparent on the surface. Oh, and she worries that her mother might be plannning crazy revenge against the man who poisoned her dog. If you enjoy cozies in exotic settings, anything by Colin Cotterill is well worth your time.

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