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)
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.
Like a couple of other reviewers, it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of both the performance and the reader but only about 10 minutes. The story is terrific - a good mystery or two and wonderfully written. I am not a giant fan of magical realism but this was so understated that I thoroughly enjoyed it. And the writer's humor is lovely. Can't wait to listen to another!
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
There's a great deal to like about this book. It is a very unusual setting, a very unusual protagonist, and delightful collateral characters. As is mentioned in many other reviews and the description, the story takes place in Laos after the Communist takeover in the 1970's. Siri Paiboun is the 72 year old coroner, the only coroner in the country, who investigates a series of deaths. Siri would really like to retire after being a doctor for many years but it just isn't in the picture for him. He has been deemed to be a coroner and that is that.
For me, this is a book that you really have to listen to very carefully due to the unfamiliar sounding names, the many characters, and different plot lines. I got lost somewhere toward the end, and I had to listen to the last chapters over a couple of times. Thus, I rated it 3 stars and no higher. I think this book would be more enjoyed by a listener who can devote all their attention to it. My concurrent activities left me feeling lost in the story several times and this I can't really blame on the author.
This book is full of delightful characters, with Dr. Siri leading the way. What fun! I plan to give this to a friend as a gift.
I went in to this with pretty low expectations - not even sure I would stick with it to the end. But by the end of the fifth chapter I was hooked. Awesome characters - not just Dr. Siri, though he is one of my favorite "detectives" after just one book.
Cannot recommend this highly enough and now looking forward to the rest of the series.
Haven't read the print version.
Not a nail biter but engaging enough to keep me interested. Getting to know the characters was the most fun.
Some reviewers have written that they thought Clive was a terrible narrater who distracted from the story. I disagree. His reading voice rather reminded me of Robin Leach (host of the old tv series "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous") which gave the story an amusing sense of importance. He did a spectacular job of creating recognizable and believable voices for all the characters.
Baguettes and murder.
This is not the most sophisticated listen but utterly enjoyable. The light tone and fun sense of humour just carry the listener along for the ride. Dr, Siri is a wonderful character living in an interesting time and place who is surrounded by likeable cohorts. I look forward to reading more adventures of this reluctant coroner.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
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!
I fell in love with the main character but found the ending very disappointing. The narrator does the main character very well but others fall a bit flat.
Yes - think I got this on a 2 for 1 because it is not my usual type of mystery. The story was great and pulled me in right away. I realized I was worried about the main character getting in trouble and knew I was hooked.
Yes - see comment above
Well read and enough changes in tone and accent to make the characters pretty clear.
I always looked forward to getting back to the book but I don't do one sitting listening.
If not sure give it a try. Again, was surprised how much I enjoyed it.
This is the first Cotterill mystery I've read but it won't be the last. If you're a mystery lover, it's a great way to get to know a country and the people who inhabit it, while enjoying a great mystery.
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