Laos, 1975: The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old Paris-trained doctor, is appointed national coroner. Although he has no training for the job, there is no one else: the rest of the educated class have fled.
He is expected to come up with the answers the party wants, but crafty and charming Dr. Siri is immune to bureaucratic pressure. At his age, he reasons, what can they do to him? And he knows he cannot fail the dead who come into his care without risk of incurring their boundless displeasure. Eternity could be a long time to have the spirits mad at you.
©2004 Colin Cotterill (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A wonderfully fresh and exotic mystery…If Cotterill…had done nothing more than treat us to Siri’s views on the dramatic, even comic crises that mark periods of government upheaval, his debut mystery would still be fascinating. But the multiple cases spread out on Siri’s examining table…are not cozy entertainments but substantial crimes that take us into the thick of political intrigue.” (New York Times Book Review)
I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.
I wasn't expecting much from the book. I was so delightfully surprised. It's wry and funny and an interesting look into Laotians.
It's also a pretty good ghosts story. Highly recommended.
I wasn't expecting much from this but it was the Deal of the Day so I took a chance. I ended up loving it. A very unusual story line and a very unusual protagonist. Try it - you'll like it!
I love to read and hope you do too! Audio books are great for people on the go!
Being a John Burdett fan, I had to check this one out. It was really good! We want more! Get the whole series pleeeeeze!
Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always."
Last summer, I developed a short lived passion for Michael Connelly's "Lincoln Lawyer" series. Connelly's Mickey Haller (2005 - present) is an easy love for an old Los Angeles trial attorney like me. I listened to the entire series, one right after another, and was secretly relieved there were only four books in the series at the time. It's an expensive habit.
This summer, Audible hooked me on Colin Cotterill's "Dr. Siri Paiboun" series. Or maybe one of the ghosts that haunts Dr. Siri (pronounced SiLee, not like the iPhone 5 voice) is haunting me, too - sitting on a wooden chair in my living room, urging me in Hmong (which in my dreams I understand) to keep listening to more Paiboun mysteries.
Dr. Siri is canny, resourceful and accidentally a detective. He's an old insurgent who fought for Lao communist forces for 40 years. Siri is a colonial French-trained doctor, unexpectedly and unwantedly named as Laotian National Coroner, despite a complete lack of forensic training. Mystery ensues and supernatural forces visit, but Cotterill follows the good mystery writer's custom of not using 'deus ex somnium' as clues. Siri is aptly assisted by sturdy and bored Nurse Dtui and the capable and occasionally comedic Mr. Geung, both unforgettable characters in their own right.
Now, for the problem: Cotterill's series has 9 books so far, and this is going to get expensive. Audible, what about a 'buy one in a series, get a second one free' deal?
This book worked so much better listening than reading for me. I would have mentally stumbled over the correct Vietnamese, Lao and Hmong pronunciations, and that would have distracted me from the story.
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Enjoying one good listen after the next!
The first few minutes of this book did not impress. . . but I gave it a bit more time and before I knew it, I was totally hooked. This is a very good mystery story set in a time and place (Laos post war) that has been mostly overlooked in fiction. The author did a great job of creating characters who demanded your empathy or ire; and produced a plot line that kept me wondering. The narration is (at the beginning) a bit flat and may be the element that made me wonder about my choice of books; but Clive Chafer did a remarkable job throughout. HIs performance is different that many others with which you may be familiar. I will listen to more of his books.
Worth the credit!
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri mystery is smart, clever, funny and charming. And that's why I compare it to Rhys Bowen's wonderful "Royal Spyness " series. Like Lady Georgianna, Dr. Siri is so charismatic the story becomes secondary.
The mystery revolves around the culture, political landscape, and poverty of Laos in the 1970s. My memory of Laos in that period is dominated by war, genocide and communism. The genius of Cotterill is his bringing to life extraordinary people who not only survived the devastation but rose above it.
This is truly a gem!
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I would never have even heard of this book without the Daily Deal, but after checking out the reviews I decided that this might be an intriguingly different choice. I was rewarded beyond expectations with a surprisingly witty and unique mystery featuring the most endearing investigator I have ever read. Never did I imagine I would be laughing out loud so often in a murder mystery set in mid 70’s Laos. Dr. Siri’s dry ironic handling of the bureaucracy was priceless, and I actually backed up and replayed one scene in which he took his immediate superior to task, because it so perfectly showed what this little man was made of. Pretty much all of the political sides received a bit of tongue in cheek lampooning.
Some reviewers complain about the supernatural aspects of the story, some crying foul about ghostly assistance in the murder solving. Personally I loved that part of the story, but will say to any potential readers that if other worldly spirits bug you then don’t go for this series.
I admit that I only allowed 4 stars for the story because the mysteries being solved were somewhat lightweight. But perfect narration gave tangible personality to Siri and the secondary characters lifting this intelligently written story to a 5 star on the strength of strong character development. I’m going back for more.
I don't often read mysteries, but took a chance on this in a daily deal sale. I really took a liking to Dr. Siri, enjoying his observations and perspective on life. The author is compassionate toward his characters, even the bad guys. This book does veer into fantasy, which I was not expecting, but I read a fair amount of fantasy, so just went with it. I don't like detailed violence and gore, and although this book has some, it didn't overwhelm the story or shock me. While there are some mysteries to be solved, I would say this is really a character driven novel. The setting is also a strong feature of the story, set in 70's Laos. I enjoyed learning about the social and political setting, which I had never read about before this book. Over-all I would characterize this as a fun read.
The main character, the coroner, is very engaging. The setting in Laos in the 1970s and the inclusion of a bit of mysticism are both very unusual for what is essentially a "cozy". If you love mysteries but are tired of usual settings and characters, this might be the book for you.
The scenes set in a Hmong village are pretty unforgettable.
On a long drive, I could have listened straight though. This isn't something I can say about most books.
This book revolves around the political and social upheavals in Sourh East Asia after the Vietnam War. It does this is in a very matter of fact way that is woven into the story. As this is a subject I know little to nothing about, I felt like I learned something listening to this book. Altogether a worthwhile and entertaining listen.
When I first started listening, I thought, "Oh no, another man-against-irrational-communist-bureaucracy story." Then I started to chuckle. Then I laughed out loud and was completely hooked on the series. This book is a fresh take on classic conventions. The detective is one stubbornly honest man in a corrupt world. He must constantly get around the dictates of his boss. (You will love the name.) The craziness of communist rules satirize our own. What stands out brilliantly is the character of Siri, which sounds like "Silly." He's a cheerful person with a lively sense of irony and a connection to the spirit world that veers from absurd to menacing. All the other characters are drawn with depth. Relationships shift and develop. These are people you want to live with through book after book. And, oh yes, there is a mystery in each novel.
I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri series or Ruth Downie's Medicus Fortunately it avoids some of the problems that plague the latter.
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