I cannot tell a lie. I bought this book purely for its title. It is, if you like, purchased at the whim of its name. Not being politically minded, I was unaware that it’s actually lifted from a George W Bush speech where he mangled “on a whim” with “at the drop of a hat” to note there are people who will “kill at the whim of a hat”. This quote and many others are used as chapter headings throughout the book. Cunning.
But what is it actually about? Set in Thailand, it’s narrated by Jimm Juree, a crime reporter poised on the cusp of greatness at the Chiang Mai Daily Mail. Jimm has a very colourful family and when her mother begins to show early onset dementia and sells everything they own to buy a resort in deepest Southern Thailand, Jimm gives up her career and follows her family. Then one day, while digging to install a well, a VW camper van is dug up with two skeletons inside. Jimm senses an opportunity to establish herself back in the game of crime reporting and begins sniffing around the story. Then, an abbot is murdered at the local temple and soon it’s all much bigger than Jimm could ever have foreseen.
With its set up of a precocious heroine indulging in amateur sleuthing whilst being vexed by her off kilter family, there is a whiff of Flavia de Luce about proceedings. The book also shares that series great strengths and weaknesses. Characterisation is strong (Jimm’s transgender sister, a cabaret star turned beauty queen turned Garbo style recluse, is a standout), the first person narrative from Juree is breezily delivered and very funny (likening a Chinese grandmother’s speech pattern to fireworks made me laugh very hard indeed), and it all zips along quite nicely. However, Cotterill’s reach does exceed his grasp a little and the story is overstuffed and over-plotted. The denouement is only partially satisfying and more than a little rushed.
As opening books of planned series go, this is definitely an above average entry. The basis is there for this to be a fun set of books. Books 2 and 3 are already published, so if this sounds like your sort of thing, you could certainly do a lot worse than giving Jimm Juree some of your time.