But the head isn’t the only strand in the plot line.  A second involves two elegant women who could obviously afford a better class of accommodation than the family's seaside resort, a mother and daughter combination travelling in a car without number plates and a very flimsy explanation for the absence. 

They are obviously running from something and the daughter claims they are hiding because her father is one of the leading activists against the yellow shirt yuppies occupying Government House in Bangkok, in an antigovernment protest. Tis is the sort of situation where Jimm’s transgender computer whiz sister Sissie comes into her own, and while Sissie discovers the daughter had won a scholarship to study science in the USA but disappeared before collecting her diploma this doesn’t explain why mother and daughter are on the run.

Other distractions include the intriguing possibility of Jimm's slightly senile mother Mair having entered a surreptitious relationship (it certainly seems there’s some illicit nookie taking place) while Jimm is picking up some extra pin money by acting as a guinea pig to trial anti-depressives that turn out to be some sort of feminine equivalent of Viagra.

With a plot line that tackles links to corruption in Thai politics, and social issues that go beyond the exploitation of disenfranchised Burmese there’s an underlying note of harsh reality to the story, but where another writer might tackle those issues by getting heavy in the detail, Cotterill leavens the social and political commentary (it’s there and it’s reasonably sharp), making it one strand in the story rather than the main focus.

That might not work for some readers, but if you’re after grit rather than quirk you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be reading Cotterill anyway. I had my reservations about the whole endeavour in the early stages of Killed at the Whim of a Hat, but based on Grandad’s combination of social commentary, perceptive detective work and comic violence as long as Cotterill can come up with something like the high seas showdown where Jimm and her rag tag crew of volunteers take on the heavily armed thugs on the quasi-legal fishing boats I’ll be reading.

Unanticipated twists and turns of the plot line are par for the course in the genre, but Cotterill’s twists and turns are stranger, and usually more clever, than most...

© Ian Hughes 2012