Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Colin Cotterill has written seven novels about Dr Siri Paiboun, a coroner in the failed communist state of 1970s Laos. It seemed at the end of the last that Dr Siri might be dying. I have double good news – Dr Siri will return later this year in an eighth adventure, but meanwhile we have another protagonist from the Cotterill pen. Meet Jimm Juree, a young (thirty-something) sometime journalist in current day Thailand, recently relocated with her family to the south of the country.
Jimm Juree’s family consists of a grandfather, who was once an honest police officer; mother, who seems to be cracking up; and a big brother who has to roll tree trunks because the gym equipment he has been used to is unavailable down here in the sticks. Another sibling has remained in the capital running an internet business, which will prove useful later on.
Events seem to be by-passing this fishing village on the Gulf of Siam until an excavation proves that more exciting things are possible; in fact, have occurred. Excavation of a well turns up a buried Volkswagon Kombi with two skeletons inside, there for at least twenty years. Jimm Juree sees the opportunity to revive her journalistic career, relaying the investigation to the newspapers in the capital. Then, as she gets to know the local police officers, she hears of something else: a murder in a local monastery, an abbot stabbed repeatedly. From reporter, Jimm Juree becomes detective.
Taking into account established traditions (if Buddhist monks are not allowed to wear a hat why does one cover the head of the dead abbot?) and with the aid of her family, who are sometimes more aware than she realises, who have both skills of which she is aware and skills that she has never realised, Jimm Juree helps track down the culprit, and provisionally accounts for the location of the van and corpses (as Jimm Juree is a film fan, particularly of Clint Eastwood, she may be thinking of a similar van-end in Lindsay Anderson’s 1982 film Britannia Hospital, though she does not mention that), as Cotterill braids his plot and then whips his loose ends.
There is something in the air, and Colin Cotterill has one of the most pungent of fragrances: humour, toleration, awareness of corruption, along with simultaneous appreciation that societies such as Jimm Juree’s combine many features of the west with others that have existed for hundreds of years, are some of his metaphorical scents. Nick Brownlee’s Jake and Jouma series, set in Kenya, has something similar, while Adrian Hyland’s Emily Tempest books, about the investigations of a young aboriginal woman back from university, have a comparable feisty protagonist. Just as I want to hear more about Dr Siri, now I want to hear more about Jimm Juree as well.