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The Coroner’s Lunch: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 1 | [Colin Cotterill]

The Coroner’s Lunch: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 1

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (463 )
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  •  
    ch Portland, OR USA 09-02-11
    ch Portland, OR USA 09-02-11 Member Since 2002

    I love to read and hope you do too! Audio books are great for people on the go!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Where's book 2?"

    Being a John Burdett fan, I had to check this one out. It was really good! We want more! Get the whole series pleeeeeze!

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 08-12-14
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 08-12-14 Member Since 2005

    A few must reads: Mr. Mercedes, Narrows Gate, Cop Town, Bomb Proof, Wayfaring Stranger, The Son (Nesbo), Dept Q series...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Laotians Answer to Her Royal Spyness Mysteries"

    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!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 07-28-14
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 07-28-14 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Coroner to the Communist Stars"

    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.

    [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

    24 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sires Chesapeake, OH, United States 08-17-14
    Sires Chesapeake, OH, United States 08-17-14 Member Since 2004

    I like mysteries (particularly British ones, historical fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Darkly Comic Mystery Set in Laos Post 1975"

    Dr Siri Paiboun became Coroner more or less by default. He is 72 years old and had spent most of his earlier years as a doctor treating soldiers injured in the struggle for Communism to take over the government. Now it has succeeded and the worker's utopia has been deserted for the most part by the wealthy and educated class. He has an antique microscope, a few chemicals, and a camera that has a very strictly limited amount of film that his investigations must share with the social events of the nurses. There's a government spy installed behind his mortuary who complains about the smell of the corpses and mystical experiences that interrupts his nights.

    The reader was very good and I quite enjoyed listening to this book with it's convoluted plot and interesting background.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen Chesterton, IN, United States 07-25-14
    Ellen Chesterton, IN, United States 07-25-14 Member Since 2008

    I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delightful"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Coffee Lover Huntsville, AL 07-07-14
    Coffee Lover Huntsville, AL 07-07-14 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Surprisingly good!"

    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 07-03-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 07-03-14

    SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful Story, Dreadful Narration"

    I wanted to love this, really I did. I've read most of this series, and I purchased this audiobook as part of a Kindle bundle. Which is a good thing as the thought of paying full price makes me shudder. The narrator, Clive Chafer, just kills what is a really, really good book. There is so much cheeky humor in the text, quandaries, character development. Really, the book itself is a delight, especially as it's not your usual run of the mill coroner/detection story but has history (Which I love!) and research in it, that makes it full and well fleshed-out. Siri is a wonderful character, stubborn, funny, views the world in a one-of-a-kind way, and gets befuddled over the oddest things.
    But, oh, the narration! Sooo serious, so flat. Where on earth did the humor go, the lightness, the richness of description?
    This is a really good book, but I don't think it's worth a credit. Perhaps a half-credit, or a Daily Deal. But see if you can stomach the narration.
    It's a pity because this could've been a joyful ride!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sherry Kirkland, WA, United States 09-04-14
    sherry Kirkland, WA, United States 09-04-14 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delightful surprise"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sallie RIVERTON, UT, United States 09-02-14
    Sallie RIVERTON, UT, United States 09-02-14 Member Since 2007
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    "Loved it!"

    This book is a treasure! I loved Dr. Siri and his assistants, the government, and the culture. This is a book of attitudes, each character is well developed and has a place in my heart. This is not a fast-paced, high adventure narrative. It is just a grand, enjoyable story. Dr. Siri is always in some sort of mess and thumbs his nose at the government. I will probably listen to this again some time in the future.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 09-02-14
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 09-02-14 Member Since 2009

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Post Vietnam War View of Laos from Coroner's View"

    I thoroughly enjoyed (strange to enjoy a story from the morgue, huh?) this audio book, much to my own surprise. A 72-year old doctor turned coroner, is not at all happy with the prospects, he was educated in Paris prior to the communist regime of Pathet Lao in Laos, now following the Vietnam war, the former French colony is forever changed. But Dr. Siri must play along. The twists and turns are hilarious, sad, strange and full of Asian mystical meaning, of which the kind doctor has a gift. This is great writing on many levels . . . the descriptions of post-war Laos, the great understanding of what the Laotian people endured and how they felt during this time (but were unable to express), the deceptions of communist, and the ingenious ways that all resilient people survive under horrendous conditions. I can't wait to go on to the next book in the series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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