When a blind, retired dentist is run down by a logging truck as he crosses the road to post a letter, Dr Siri Paiboun, official and only coroner of Laos, finds him faced with his most explosive case yet. The dentist’s mortal remains aren’t nearly as intriguing as the letter in his pocket. Written in invisible ink and encrypted, the letter presents Dr Siri with an irresistible challenge. Enlisting the help of his old friend, Civilai, now a senior member of the Laos politburo; Nurse Dtui (‘Fatty’); Phosy, a police officer; and Aunt Bpoo, a transvestite fortune-teller, Dr Siri soon finds himself on the trail of an international plot to overthrow the government of Laos.
©2011 Quercus Editions Ltd (P)2011 Quercus Editions Ltd
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"One of the best of Dr Siri"
Cotterill's imaginative idea to place his crime/mystery series in Communist Laos of the 1970s shines a spotlight on a time and a regime little known to us in the West. Dr Siri, the 70 year old coroner is his hero, and a very vivid one too, but as so often with this series the plot is supported by fascinating detail (shown from the point of view of those who fought for freedom from colonial yoke) about the situation. Don't think it is a polemic - humour is engagingly balanced by humanity as plot and counter-plot is exposed - but we do learn a lot about Laos and its 20th century struggles. I will definitely visit this year. In the hands (er- the voice) of Nigel Anthony, this book springs off the page. What a delight.
"A disappointed listener"
I bought this book because it was billed as a thriller and it had a very high listener rating. I was disappointed for the following reasons. The story is not much of a thriller or a mystery. It does have a story line based on a coded letter, but the story that unravells lacks pace and has a rather ambiguous style. It has humourous protagonist dealing with murder and conspiracy, but it is not clear whether the narrative is meant to be toungue in cheek or not. The aspect that worked least for me was the dreams/references to super-natural and the frequent musings over the Laos war of independence from the French. It might reasonably be called a political thriller , but it is one whose characters did not come to life for me. Several times I thought " I wonder what was going through the author's head when he wrote this crass rubbish"! My comment is rather harsh, as the book is quite well written, it has a plot and many reasonably defined characters... it just did not work for me. Do not expect a Michael Connolly kind of book, think more of Alexander McCall Smith ( but not as good).
"Excellent plot and characters"
I have read one in the series and listened to two in the car. Each has its merits - in reading you build your own character in your mind. By listening whilst in the car you have the opertunity to expirance more literature than time normaly permits.
The lead - the doctor come detective. He brings a sense of history and depth, how he fought for his beliefs in making the world better, his kindness and self sacrifice.
I have heard two different narrators in the series , my personal choice was not this one, the other had better vocal range.
There were many significant moments in the book, finding a long lost compatrart, the sadness of the murdered boy's friend, the last days of the murdered boy.
Set in the 1970s post Vietnam war the story portrayed the bitter sweet ' victory ' of the Lao people, and how day to day people lived and the ' routine crime' as side by side with power struggles. The character's came across believable - each with their own issues to contented with.
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