Old Mel has hired a young man to dig a hole for a new well. All of a sudden, the boy disappears as the ground gives out from under him. He finds himself standing on a VW bus from the 1970’s. Inside the bus, are two skeletons, one with hands placed appropriately on the steering wheel.
Jimm Juree, news reporter par excellence, reveals to the reader that her name is synonymous with accurate crime reporting all over Thailand. It is only a matter of time before her boss retires and she moves into his chair as senior crime reporter. She loves her job and the world is her oyster, that is, until her mother announces that she has sold their home and business to a group wanting to build a condominium. In turn, Mair has purchased a “lovely” sea side resort in the south of Thailand. The family is moving.
Jimm is an optimist; she’ll find stories big city newspapers will be eager to buy. Her brother, Arny, is a competitive body builder. He is close to despair at being forced to leave the well-equipped gyms in the city but he can improvise. Granddad Jah is a man of few words who spends his days keeping track of passing cars. He will continue to track cars in a different place. “At one end of the table sat my sister, Sissi, who at one time had been my older brother, Somkiet.” Sissi has a good internet business so she is staying in place; the new location doesn’t have the modern facilities necessary to access the world wide web. But Sissi will only be a phone call away and Jimm figures that her sister’s internet skills will be invaluable as she pursues breaking news or hard hitting investigative reports. The family is still the family.
For ten months, Jimm has been the cook at the resort while her mother worked in the resort shop that is stocked with items from the time the resort first opened. Arny manages the hotel and Granddad watches cars drive by. When she first arrived, Jimm had made everyone aware of her career in the newspaper business. No one sent any stories her way until Captain Kow of the local police department comes riding on his Honda to tell her of the bodies in the VW.
With one big story under her belt, Jimm makes herself available to the local police and, if hanging around can get her the inside track on a story, that is only par for the course in the news business. It is in hanging around that Jimm learns of a truly big story, one that is so sensitive that there is a news blackout. There has been a murder at a local monastery.
Jimm teams up with Lieutenant Chompu when it becomes apparent that someone with a great deal of influence is moving behind the scenes. The murdered abbot is a visitor, a member of the Buddhist version of an Internal Affairs department. Someone has accused Abbot Kem of being in an inappropriate relationship with the temple nun. The nun becomes the obvious suspect, the only suspect, but Jimm refuses to accept that notion. She and Chompu agree to share information although Jimm thinks it likely that the lieutenant plans that most of the sharing will be on Jimm’s part.
I have been a fan of Colin Cotterill’s since the first book in the Siri Paiboun series. This first book in a new series combines a good story, a satisfying mystery, and thoroughly enjoyable characters. The book is filled with wonderful lines that sort of sneak up on the reader:
When speaking of the abbot: “I needed to look into his eyes and see what his slant on all this was.”
Jimm on her language skills: “I wanted to go to an English-speaking country but they were all full so they sent me to Australia.”
The chapter titles are a delightful walk through the speeches of George W. Bush. And Jimm makes this observation: “If nothing else, my analysis of George W’s oratory style had taught me that a sincere countenance and a confident stance were sufficient to distract your audience from the fact that you were talking rubbish.”
KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT is worth reading.