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Home » Books & writing

Book Review: KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT by Colin Cotterill

Submitted by on October 13, 2011 – 9:59 pm14 Comments

Originally reviewed for Shelf Awareness, published here with permission.

Colin Cotterill, author of the Dr. Siri series set in 1970s Laos, introduces a new sleuth in Killed at the Whim of a Hat. Though Jimm Juree lives in present day, she may feel like she’s in backwater country. Jimm is a Thai crime reporter and rising star for the Chiang Mai Mail until she’s forced to move with her family to a rural village. Life mainly consists of gutting fish and kitchen duties until an old Volkswagen van is discovered buried under a farmer’s land with a pair of skeletons inside, one wearing a hat. Soon after, an abbot is found brutally murdered at a nearby temple, with an incongruous, orange hat perched on his head. Seeing a chance to recapture her former journalistic glory, Jimm jumps on the stories and gets help from unexpected sources on her way to solving the mysteries.

The main selling points are the characters and Cotterill’s humor. Jimm observes that a red herring is “a good source of Vitamin D,” and encounters dogs so ugly that they’re like “Fellini dog extras.” The title is based on, and each chapter is headed by, an actual George W. Bush maloprism, and the running joke is tangentially relevant to the story.

Jimm and her family are a wacky bunch, with entertaining interactions and dinner conversations. They have reasons for being eccentric and their collective heart gently reveals itself at unexpected moments. The resolution to the abbot’s murder is a bit odd, but one can argue that this unconventional novel and its inhabitants deserve nothing less.

Nerd verdict: Whimsy with substance

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14 Comments »

  • EIREGO says:

    Love the title! Don’t know Colin Cotterill’s work, but this sounds like a good read.

  • Lauren says:

    This is one I can’t wait to read, both because you and Jen have raved about it and because Colin was such a delight at Bouchercon. Further proof that your best PR can be yourself. Thanks for the review, E!

  • Yes, I love the title, too! It’s very whimsical, so it sounds like a perfect fit for the book. I’m all for a healthy dose of whimsy, as you know. Have a beautiful weekend, PCN!

  • Pop Culture Nerd says:

    EIREGO—This would be a good place to start since it’s the first of a new series.

    Lauren—I agree that authors can sell books by simply being cool.

    Shell—I believe you do know a thing or two about whimsy. Enjoy your weekend, too!

  • Paulette says:

    Yes, I agree. I will read his work now for both reasons you mentioned. Thanks, Elyse, for a charming review. I am intrigued to read the W Malapropisms. This weekend I am working my way through Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox series….she is kicking ass!

  • Christine says:

    I just finished the first in Colin’s Dr. Siri series, The Coroner’s Lunch. I was excited when this book was added to our book club list. Honestly, the thought of reading a book with the main character being a 72 yo coroner in late-1970s Laos probably wouldn’t have gotten my attention unless it was recommended or I enjoyed meeting the author which in my case was at Bouchercon as well. :) The book did not disappoint and I plan to catch-up on the rest of the series. I wasn’t expecting the bit of mysticism, but it did not detract or distract from the story for me. And I love his humor. So, in addition to the rest of Dr. Siri’s novels, I’ll also add this book to the TBR library. ;)

  • Paulette says:

    too much fun! I just finished the second Dr. Siri book and will start Disco For The Departed sometime this weekend (? school work, Saturday night Craisiness, golf and Oscars, but I will squeeze it in). Hmmmm, perhaps I should jump to Whim first? Decisions, desicions…

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