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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » Killed at the Whim of a Hat » User review

Edgy characters, intriguing location and pleasing mystery

  • May 20, 2013
Rating:
+3
Marketing works! I saw this book on a shelf next to the latest Number One Ladies Detective Agency novel. The cover has the same style of border and a central image reminiscent of earlier books in the series. The label on the shelf said “If you like… then you will enjoy…” So my husband bought the book for me for Mothers’ Day.

Colin Cotterill is not Alexander McCall Smith, and Killed at the Whim of a Hat has a very different feel to the Number One Ladies Detective Agency Novels. It’s much sharper and more harshly critical of the society where it’s set. The protagonist, Jimm Juree, is much more antagonistic. The writing has a harder edge and more biting tone. And the storyline makes you read faster—though the novel’s just as long and there are really only two mysteries to be solved. Vivid words and descriptions sweat as the bike-pedals turn in the heat of a less gentle land.

But things change. Both author and character soften their tone as the story progresses. Jimm Juree learns to value her family for themselves rather than just for duty. She warms to the out-of-the-way locale as the reader warms to her determined rebellion. And the end result is the beginning of what looks like a pleasing, and pleasingly different, mystery series.

Edgy characters include an oddly effeminate cop, a sister who used to be a brother, a sensitive giant, and, of course, a suitable handful of villains out to make money from everyone. This is Thailand, with all its big-city corruption and small-town graft, with history and future… and with headline quotes from George W Bush? But, of course, it’s Bush who first said “at the whim of a hat,” and every quote is perfectly suited to the chapter it introduces—even to the tale when questions are asked and Jimm learns to use that “sincere countenance and confident stance” to best effect.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected in this book, and the beginning felt slow, or overly angry. But I’m hooked by the end and hoping my husband might be tempted to buy me more.

Disclosure: I got this book as a gift for Mothers’ Day.

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About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth ()
Ranked #42
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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Wiki

"The Jimm Juree series is off to at least as good a start as the Dr. Siri one was. It has the potential to be even better."
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
"Excellent ... Cotterill ... combines a wry narrative voice with an appealing picture of a world unfamiliar to most Americans."
--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
 
"An ebullient series kickoff."
--Kirkus Reviews
 
"Cotterill's fiction has been compared to Alexander McCall Smith's, presumably because it also has a colourful location. It is far more complex and perceptive."
--The Independent
 
"A procession of memorable local characters.... By coming up with an original and entertaining new formula, this author reaffirms his creativity and versatility."
--Japan Times
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