It's completely possible to fall in love with fictional characters. I've done it before. J. K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' (1997-2007) is an easy one. Some of the best times of my life were reading all seven books aloud to my (now adult) son. Stephen Colbert? I know he'll do well as the host of "Late Show" but I'll always miss "The Colbert Report" (2005-2014). Add the incomparable Dr. Siri Paiboun, the National Medical Examiner of mid- to late-1970's Laos and his wife, the talented noodle chef Madame Tseng to my beloved imaginary friends.
Dr. Siri is asked to investigate the 1969 disappearance? death? of a US senator's pilot son in Laos. Not that the Air America was a CIA front; not that Air America was running drugs and arms in Southeast Asia; and not that the United Stares was ever in Laos. The reluctant coroner but happy adventurer is allowed to select a pathologist's dream team to make the trip to the mountains of Laos. He chooses Madame Tseng: Nurse Dtui and her husband, Inspector Posey; Comrade Civilai; and Mr. Tsung, the morgue assistant with Down syndrome. Auntie Puu, a transvestite fortune teller, unexpectedly hitches a helicopter ride and joins the party at the Friendship Hotel. Add an American team, including the tragically alcoholic Major Harold Potter, and an unexpectedly claustrophobic setting, and more than one mystery, and it's an unexpectedly complex plot.
Dr. Siri's also the host of a 1,000 year old Hmong spirit, Ya Ming. Ya Ming's got lots of friends and lots of business he sometimes accomplishes without his host's knowledge. Cotterill did something in this book that he didn't do in the previous 7 in the series: there was a Ya Ming ex Machina. I guess it's acceptable as a literary device, but it's a bit of a disappointment.
Cotterill's books are full of witty dialogue and funny, frank characters. Be prepared to laugh out loud, often. Clive Chafer is a droll, memorable narrator and moves between English, Lao, Thai and Hmong pronunciations fluidly.
[Sorry for any misspellings - I did my best based on what I heard. If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
I had a very , very long drive over a too short weekend, and I wanted to find a book that would keep me interested and awake. I'd found "The Bone Thief" by 'Jefferson Bass', and it was even more than I hoped for.
'Jefferson Bass' is the writing partnership of Jon Jefferson, a science writer and Dr. William Bass, the forensic anthropologist who founded the University of Tennessee'a 'Body Farm'. The Body Farm studies donated bodies to learn about decomposition to help solve crime. I've been reading non-fiction books mentioning Bill Bas and his work for years (like Mary Roach's Corpse), and fiction too (Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan series).
I expected some serious forensic anthropology in "The Bone Thief", and it was there. What was unexpected and fascinating was the through discussion of transplants and body donations. A great deal of the discussion was true, as the afterward explained
The story started out strong, but the mystery and solution was pretty formulaic, so that was disappointing.
The narration was good, and Dan Foren did a good job distinguishing the characters. I liked the southern accent he used for the main character, Dr. Bill Brockton.
This forensic mystery was good company for the long drive.