Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill is one of those rare mysteries that manages to be both laugh out loud funny and have an underlying seriousness. This is the second in the series, but having not read the first, I felt this worked fine on its own. Our intrepid sleuth is Jimm Juree, a currently unemployed crime reporter who is currently living in a rural village on the coast of Southern Thailand thanks to her family, primarily her nutty mother who purchased a run-down resort. Jimm is digusted when she finds head on the beach, but intrigued too. Finding out who the head belonged to and how it ended up on their beach leads Jimm, dragging along her family and friends, into a mess involving corrupt cops, slavery, and charities that aren’t as charitable as they present themselves. There’s also an unrelated side plot involving the only two guests at the resort, a mother and daughter who are quite obviously on the run from someone.
I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I love the zany characters in this book. I can’t think of a better way to describe Jimm’s friends and family: her mother who might be drifting mentally and simply loves animals; a grandfather who is a retired traffic cop; a younger virginal brother who is a body-builder and his older girlfriend, also a body-builder; a transgendered, former beauty pageant queen, former older brother who is an amazing computer hacker; and a gay cop who has more or less been exiled to this small town. Somehow, though Cotterill keeps them from becoming cartoonish. They’re warm and delightful, charmingly eccentric. I liked them, enjoyed spending time with them.
The plot, it turns out, centers around the situation Burmese refugees in Thailand find themselve in. In this fictional story, which the author states does have a basis in reality, Burmese people are being kidnapped off the streets and forced into slavery aboard fishing ships. (Read a related story from the BBC here.) Jimm and her circle are on their own, fighting against corrupt police and a population that just doesn’t seem to care about the Burmese. The ending becomes rather thrilling and, as a person who spends a lot of her time on-line, I appreciated how Jimm and her older sister use the internet and social media to gain support for their mission.
While the plot sounds rather grim, the book really is hilarious in spots. It’s a light book, really, even if the topic isn’t. There are wacky hijinks, a monkey which is always funny, a naked cop, an airport takeover that if I remember right morphs into a ping pong tournament. The setting is, for me, exotic, but it’s still just a small town, and feels like it.
I listened to this one on audio and felt Kim Mai Guest, the reader, was perfect with a bit of an accent which added to the authentic feeling. This one’s definitely worth listening to/reading. It’s clever and amusing. I’m looking forward to reading more stories feature Jimm and her regular cast of characters.
4 out of 5 stars
Jimm Juree #2
Published June 19, 2012
9 hours 13 minutes
Read Kim Mai Guest
Book source: Library
Jimm Juree Series
- Killed at the Whim of a Hat
- Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach
This was my second read for R.I.P. VII, a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim. R.I.P. VII is hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.