Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach
A Jimm Juree Mystery #2
Minotaur Books, 2012
Author Colin Cotterill appears to have a somewhat skewed view of the world, especially as applied to world politics. Sardonic to a fault, his skill as a writer is prominently on display here. His characters are unusual, almost all off-beat and so they tend to act in unexpected ways. That may be the influence of the setting, somewhere along the coast of southern Thailand, the influence of drugs imbibed by several in the story, or the speculative motives of nearly all the participants.
If there is a problem with this novel, it may be that none of the principals are people you’d like to spend a whole lot of time with—or go to bed with.
Jimm Juree established a career as a crime reporter in Thailand and life was progressing. Then, for obscure reasons, her mother sells the family home and buys a run-down failing motel-holiday resort near a disappearing beach on the ocean shore. Unfortunately, the beach is also the location where streams deposit various unwanted trash and other detritus. And that’s how, presumably, it is that early one morning Jimm Juree comes upon a human head in the sand.
Thereafter, the plot devolves into political and illegal shenanigans of concealment, fraud and other assorted crimes. Treatment of Burmese refugees is prominent throughout the novel. A mysterious woman and her presumed daughter, apparently on the run, insist on staying at the resort and getting under foot. Local political gangsters cross dangerous and violent paths with Jimm Juree and her friends and the story, a bit long for my taste, lurches along to a most satisfying and somewhat amusing conclusion.
The humorous and occasionally wacky happenings are, in fact, background and leavening for a much more serious illumination of a problem, that of Burmese refugees and their treatment in Myanmar and Thailand. I am just not sure that the excruciating difficulties faced by the displaced Burmese are effectively handled by their juxtaposition with the unusual family of Jimm Juree.
Tales from My Closet
Jennifer Anne Moses
Scholastic Press, February 2014
In Tales from My Closet, Ms. Moses so aptly captures the venom that spews from the mouths of teens, that I find myself fantasizing about a trip back in time to punch Teen-Aged Me in the face and to hug my mom very tightly. The unlikely union of five teen-age fashionistas, each experiencing unrelated, yet equally concerning issues at home, immediately pulled me into the fascinating, eerily familiar tales.
Uniquely unapologetic, the unabashed, free-flung, nastiness of Spoiled-Rich-Fashionista feels down-right insulting. And also, terribly sad and desperate. Vintage-Fashionista, the initial and most frequent narrator, is the quintessential-know-it-all-dramatically-impatient-daughter that I was. And, of course, all of my girlfriends were.
Fabulous-in-Lingerie brings a harsh, yet crucial reminder that even if it seems like a person’s problems are frivolous, there could be more behind the scenes. Ann, Fantastic-in-Fifties, reluctantly realizes that moms were daughters once, too, and that moms, grandmas, and “perfect” sisters make mistakes and have secrets. Huge Smile All-Varsity Girl rounds out the cast, providing a perfect example of things not being at all as they appear.
Fabulously, each fashionista presents her own version of the tumultuous year together. This enriches the story as it provides not only a deeper and more thorough understanding of each character; but also because the reader “sees” more about the family unit and the individual parents and siblings.
I believe Tales provides a rare and welcome opportunity for a mom and her daughter(s) to read the same book, at the same time. Not just because it packs a powerful punch, but because it is also bitingly witty, sweet, funny and captivating.
“I tried not to hold his hyper-funk-nihilist-grunge-
gender-blended-macho look against him…..”
“Of course she’s lonely: She’s a freak! No one
wants to be friends with her, not just me.”
“….saw you looking so punk-cool-fifties-awesome-fab, I’d be
so blinded by your sublime radiance of fabulosity
that I’d get on the next train back to college!”
“…how can Robot Girl erase someone as
out-there and funktabulous as you are?”
“…but he was famous for looking like a person
who was planning to grow up to be a drug
addict, or maybe a serial killer.”
Reviewed by jv poore, June 2015.