Colin Cotterill lives in Southern Thailand, where he's set the inventive Jimm Juree mystery series in a rural outpost village called Maprao—a funky, lackadaisical, behind-the-times setting painted in cartoon colors with a comic wash. The Axe Factor is the third in this series of imaginatively plotted, very funny crime novels starring Jimm, a 30-something freelance reporter and “English language doctor” who still misses the bright lights and big-city atmosphere of her former home in Chiang Mai. She and her off-the-wall family are the proprietors of the Gulf Bay Lovely Resort and Restaurant, a motley collection of past-their-prime bungalows on Thailand’s south coast, where not much seems to happen during the best of times.

The town’s local Chumphon News has asked Jimm to interview Conrad Coralbank, a well-known writer of crime novels who’s living in the area, and the story takes off as Jimm immediately succumbs to the writer’s considerable charms. However, Jimm’s Grandad Jah and the village’s intrepid Lieutenant Chompu are not convinced Conrad is all he’s cracked up to be, and they begin their own cockamamie version of surveillance on his activities.

But wait: Conrad’s wife has gone missing, and so has a local female medical worker, and Jimm gets embroiled in a search for clues to their whereabouts. The book cleverly ratchets up the tension, interspersing regular chapters with anonymous diary entries written by a determined and graphic-minded serial killer. Readers are left to ferret out the diarist’s identity and discover when things might get dangerous for Jimm.

To top off another layer of mystery, there’s a change in the weather: An ocean storm is brewing just as Jimm’s wacky mother (who’s prone to seasickness) takes a trip out in the bay with Captain Kow, who we learn is Jimm’s real father.

The cast of characters—many returning from previous books—can be both frightening and funny. Jimm’s “language doctor” job involves translating the malapropisms in Thai commercial signs and writing them in “correct” English, and the book’s chapters are headed by hilarious examples of what she’s up against. There’s also a tongue-in-cheek reference to Cotterill’s well-known Dr. Siri mystery series, set in Laos. Each little addition adds atmosphere to the lively text, sure to please Cotterill’s fans and attract many more.

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