Laos, 1972. The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over. Most of the educated class has fled, but 72-year-old Dr Siri Paiboun, a Paris-trained doctor, remains and is appointed state coroner. When three bodies are recovered from a reservoir, Dr.Siri establishes the cause of death was not drowning - they seem to have been electrocuted. And then there is the inexplicable death of a Party bigwig's wife at a banquet. Dr.Siri doesn't think her death was from natural causes. In the course of his investigations, he travels to his birthplace, where he makes a discovery....
©2007 Colin Cotterill (P)2011 Oakhill Publishing Ltd
"[T]his debut mystery, with its convincing and highly interesting portrayal of an exotic locale, marks the author as someone to watch." (Publishers Weekly)
Long term book junkie only recently addicted to audio books. Now my iPod and I are inseparable.
A friend recommended "The Coroner's Lunch" as the start of a series I might be interested in. I'm glad she did, otherwise the idea of a 72 year old coroner in Laos in 1975, immediately after the communist revolution, would not have struck me as my sort of thing and I would have missed out on meeting Dr. Siri Paibo, one of the most interesting characters I've encountered in crime fiction.
Siri is a reluctant, and initially not very competent, coroner; appointed as a "reward" for services to his country but feeling as if he is somehow being punished instead.
He becomes the centre of political intrigues, murders, and hauntings, which he approaches with a unique mix of scientific method and irrational (but compelling) superstition,
Siri is a man who has lost most things except his (sometimes wildly inappropriate) sense of humour and his desire to find the truth. He is a brave man who does not believe himself a hero. He inspires strong emotions in others (they either want to kill him, marry him, worship him or learn from him) because he sees beyond the idea to the person and within the person to their spirit.
Parts of the book are gruesome, in a non-exploitive way, and parts, like his conversation with some recently orphaned children are truly moving without being maudlin or melodramatic. What holds it together is Siri sense of honour and common humanity.
Of course, there are also some good puzzles. at least three of them in fact, that kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next but mostly I wanted to know more about Dr. Siri.
The denouement of one of the plots is explained in a slightly clumsy way by a conversation between two characters who have previously only appeared in conversation with Siri but that is a small fault.
Most of the time Gareth Armstrong did a superb job of creating Siri and the characters around him but there were occasional stumbles over stress and even meaning which the producer should have caught and fixed.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. "Bad Teeth" is already on my iPod.
Funny, varied, well read, a great story line.
I really enjoyed this book.
Its a little unusual, but brilliant all the same.
"Worth a try"
Came across this by accident, and enjoyed. Well read by GA, although the Viet voices sounded decidedly scottish. Laos is a place that I had not thought off, except as a footnote to the US / Vietnam situation, and I found the novel thought provoking in regard to the idealogical transfer of power to a communist state. I will try more by this author.
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