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)
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.
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.
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!
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
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!
Strange to say on murder mystery with supernatural undertones but repartee in this novel was really charming, tongue in cheek and intelligent. Thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Retired teacher and interpreter. I read classic and contemporary fiction, as well as Mystery/Suspense/Horror, Fantasy&Sci-fi.
Clever, funny, poetic, complex....touching, irreverent...geez Louise, I can't do it justice.
The first novel I've read that takes place in Laos, the bits of cultural background were fascinating. The story is set in 1970's, in a newly formed People's Republic. The protagonist is as charming a detective as one could hope for....
I really can't recommend this book highly enough!
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