Three young Laotian women have died from fencingsword wounds. Each of them had studied abroad in an Eastern bloc country. Before he can complete his investigation, Dr. Siri is lured to Cambodia by an allexpensespaid trip. Accused of spying for the Vietnamese, he is imprisoned, beaten, and threatened with death. The Khmer Rouge is relentless, and it is touch and go for the dauntless, 74-year-old national—and only—coroner of Laos.
Crack another case with Dr. Siri.
©2010 Colin Cotterill (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Superb…A strong supporting cast…This immensely satisfying mystery has it all—a heroic protagonist, a challenging puzzle, and an exotic setting.” (Publishers Weekly)
The flat, almost expressionless narration of this book caused me to take months to finish listening to it. I liked the story and the characters but the narration put me to sleep and I just wanted to fast forward somehow or get some humanity in it somehow. I would read or listen to another of Colin Cotterill Dr. Siri books maybe for the story, but I would be reluctant to pay for a download of another without sampling the narration first.
There were many wonderful turns of phrase and the story kept me going - otherwise I would have quit listening.
Unless you're Cambodian" Dr. Siri Paiboun, 1979.
Collin Cotterill's 2011 "Love Songs from a Shallow Grave: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 7" (2011) is the most overtly political and the most plain scary of Cotterill's series to date. In the first two minutes, we learn that founding Lao communist party member and National Coroner Dr. Siri is being held someplace terrible and terrifying. He's been tortured, and people around him are dying. Siri hosts the 1000 year-old spirit Ya Ming, the dead crowd into his prison cell with him. The amulet that protected him from vicious demons has been stripped, and Siri is truly in mortal danger.
I wasn't able to pinpoint the genre of Cotterill's first six books, so I did some research, and unhelpfully came up with the category "mixed genre." Those books are a combination of amateur sleuth, police procedural and South East Asian historical mystery. Okay, I make up the last category to distinguish it from 'historical' which usually seems to refer in Amazon-land to European or American history.
"Love Songs" takes a literary turn outside of any mystery genre. The present parallels the recent past, alternating between Siri's impending death and a few weeks earlier, when he helped draft his own obituary for consideration as a Lao National Hero. It's a challenge to listen to a book written that way because there isn't a way to know immediately what time frame the story is in as it's narrated. Cotterill doesn't always follow the convention of alternating the times past-present-past-present. The story itself doesn't need the ridged framework, but it would have helped the audio narration. Cotterill's writing tends to the sardonic, but he sets aside the Siri's usual amusing cynicism to starkly present Cambodia under Pol Pot and the Khemer Rouge. It's eerily like what is known about North Korea under the Kim-Jong rulers.
This isn't Cotterill's usual "solve-a-mystery while learning about an exotic land" fare, but still your stomach and listen all the same.
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