The Axe Factor by Colin Cotterill was first published by Quercus in the United Kingdom in 2013 and published in the USA by Minotaur Books in 2014. It is the third Jimm Juree Mystery set in Thailand. Colin is also the award winning author of the Dr. Siri coroner series, set in Laos, numbering nine novels.
A blurb on my book tells the reader, “Cotterill understands people and writes subtle humor like a master.” Library Journal (starred review) on The Axe Factor. No argument here with the people part, including Thai people or the starred part. It’s a book that will make you smile, often, even during the blood and the body parts. As for the humor being subtle? As cutting and sharp as the featured murder weapon would be a more apt description. The mystery is told in the narrative voice of former Chiang Mai resident and investigative reporter, Jimm Juree. Jimm and her eccentric family have relocated to the coast of southern Thailand, in Chumpon province, where they run the Gulf Bay Lovely Resort and Restaurant. In addition to the nucleus of Jimm there is Granddad Jah, a retired Thai traffic cop with a keen sense of detail, character assessment and poor hearing, Mair the somewhat demented and digressive matriarch, and Arny the sensitive bodybuilder nicknamed after his Schwarzenegger idol. The long lost father, a squid fisherman named Captain Kow is introduced for the first time. Only Sissi, the aging transgendered, former beauty queen brother has remained in Chiang Mai. There she spends most of her time involved on illicit computer activities when not on the phone with Jimm, helping her solve an investigative or personal problem. Dogs are also part of the family. GoGo, Sticky Rice and Beer even get a mention in the acknowledgment of the book, as they should. Their roles are important and comedic, sometimes simultaneously. Chompu, a gay and cheerful Thai police officer makes his recurring role a memorable one, once again.
Clever writing is found throughout this farce of a murder tale. But the improbable is not really so improbable when viewed through Cotterill’s observations and imagination. Lines like, The duty officer was very fond of microwave tuna pie, are found as you read about the lone night policeman known to wait outside the town’s Seven Eleven store.
It’s not all fun, murder and games, however. During Jimm’s investigation into the disappearance of a female doctor, deception, corruption and foul play by a corporate sponsor involved in the production of baby formula plays a prominent role. The message is: natural is better and what could be more natural than mothers’ milk? The subtlety comes in environmental issues, in the form of garbage washing up on the beaches daily or a character wondering in Buddhist fashion, which life form they will return in for the next life, including the possibility of, a barely alive piece of coral.
The smart and sane one in the family, Jimm Juree, finds romance in this tale in the form of expat author Conrad Coralbank, who coincidentally or not has the same initials as the author and has also published a popular fictional series set in Laos. No one is spared from the acerbic wit of Cotterill, including the publishing industry, sex scenes in literature, technology users, authors and perhaps even readers of mystery fiction? The obvious becomes not so obvious in this wild fantasy ride.
As with Killed at the Whim of a Hat, the first in the Jimm Juree series, you get a value added feature in the form of the Chapter Titles. These are English translated signs, found in Thailand, such as Have a Good Fright, seen at a Thai domestic airport and Intercourse for Beginner found on an English Language CD. Blog entries by the murder suspect are skillfully interjected as are emails to and from Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Production Company, which add to the reading pleasure.
There is a bit of a surprise ending and readers may be left wondering if the rumors Colin Cotterill has given up writing novels for both the Dr. Siri and Jimm Juree series in favor of other artistic pursuits and spending more time with his dogs are true? Fans of Colin Cotterill fiction and intelligent, insightful and humorous writing in general can only hope the rumors are just that.
For more information regarding Colin Cotterill the author, artist, and regular chappy go to: www.colincotterill.com
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