I know this book will be one that many of my blogosphere friends will not like, though perhaps some will. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be writing this!
It’s another of those books which I read because I like to experience another culture through mystery novels. I’ve read all of Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Siri books and enjoyed them though they are a bit more like fantasy stories than mysteries!
A friend who is an anthropologist and did research in northern Thailand in the seventies felt they were a fairly true picture of Laotian culture. But I know well that Dr. Siri, 73 year old, slightly lovelorn, cynical communist and only Laotian medical examiner in the early 70s, and also a man who seems to channel a dead Hmong shaman, is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But I found the books fascinating and amusing and a host of other people did as well for they sell excellently well and have won numerous awards.
And now Cotterill has begun a new series set in southern Thailand. I am most of the way through it and it has, if anything, even quirkier characters, but again, I’m finding it very entertaining.
One of the minor reasons I’m enjoying it is that each chapter begins with a quote from George W. Bush. These quotes, which are real, range from strange word usage to nearly horrifying bits of misinformation and they leave me laughing out loud. The quotes are relevant to the chapters that follow.
The first chapter begins with, “Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream,” which is a fairly understandable set of grammatical and dyslexic sorts of error which precedes an introduction to the main family in the book. I could see myself saying this sort of thing in a moment of stress! But the quote from a speech in Tokyo in February of 2002 in which Bush proclaimed, “For a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times”, took my breath away. And it didn’t make me laugh.
The book’s title comes from something George W. said in Washington in 2004: “Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat.”
But these are only chapter titles. The book is the story of Jimm Juree, (a name that makes me hear in my head a song from Mary Poppins. Is Jimm going to be another lucky one?) a crime reporter most of whose family moved to the south when her mother, who may be suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease, sold their northern home and bought a rather iffy resort on the shores of southern Thailand. However, there is crime to investigate in the south also, or should I say crimes? There is the hippy couple who have been buried in a VW for twenty years, and the Buddhist abbot who was stabbed twelve times…..Following Jimm’s journey through these investigations is quite fascinating for those who don’t at all mind reading about very different worlds and philosophies.
Cotterill has a great website – http://www.colincotterill.com/ and has some ongoing charitable projects like books for Laos.
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