Feisty Dr. Siri Paiboun is no respecter of persons or party; at his age he feels he can afford to be independent. In this, the second novel in the series, he travels to Luang Prabang, where he communes with the deposed king who is resigned to his fate: it was predicted long ago. And he attends a conference of shamans called by the Communist Party to deliver an ultimatum to the spirits: obey party orders or get out. But as a series of mutilated corpses arrives in Dr. Siri’s morgue, and Nurse Dtui is menaced, he must use all his powers—forensic and shamanic—to discover the creature—animal or spirit—that has been slaying the innocent.
Crack another case with Dr. Siri.
©2005 Colin Cotterill (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“The quasi-mystical story keeps a perfect balance between the modern mysteries of forensic science and the ancient secrets of the spirit world as the cranky coroner tries to resolve a politically sensitive case involving the deposed king without riling the authorities.” (New York Times Book Review)
Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
Hard to mix a detective story with the fantastical. Loved the local lore, spiritual side, but not when it went so far as to be totally unbelievable. Yes, I think one was meant to find a way to tolerate that discomfort (of resolving the believable with the unbelievable--even the premise of the book, perhaps). But I'd rather have one thing or the other. That's just my taste--and probably no commentary on the skill of the author/narrator.
I very much liked the passages into the spiritual history of the people of Laos. I liked it all till it got to a point where it just pushed it too far for my taste. (Might greatly appeal to others). I appreciate history and spirituality--just somehow did not come together for me here.
One at the end--do not want to be a spoiler--but a scene where a critical incident throughout the book came to a climax was too much of a step beyond my personal comfort zone.
I don't think that my discomfort with this book should keep other people from reading it. I am speaking more about my own tastes in reading. The idea of the book is actually pretty neat--bringing old world and new together--and a world that most westerners don't really know much about in any fashion. That part was actually fascinating. But there is a point beyond which I'm not very interested in suspending belief--if it is meant to be a mystery. That's not my cup of tea--but could very well be someone else's. I would recommend people try this book--and decide for themselves. It is different--I certainly will say that.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
From 1976 to 1983, Jack Klugman ruled a fictional Los Angeles County Coroner's Office as Chief Medical Examiner Quincy in the series "Quincy M. E." The daring forensic scientist was brilliant, quirky and had an abiding social conscience that made him the target of unethical businessmen and corrupt politicians.
Imagine the fictional Quincy in Southeast Asia - Laos to be specific - in the late 1970's after the Americans (who were never officially there) are gone and the communists have taken over, and you've got French-trained Siri Paiboun, MD. Siri served as a physician with the Lao Communist Army for decades. At 72, when the monarchy that ruled the Kingdom of Laos finally fell, Siri hoped to retire. Instead, his comrades insisted it was his duty to continue to serve the people as National Coroner.
Siri serves with the same unerring moral compass if Klugman's Quincy, salted and cured with a liberal dose of cynicism. Siri doesn't have basic resources to do his job, but with the assistance if Nurse Dtui (pronounced "two ee") and laboratory assistant Mr. Geung, the job gets done anyway. Colin Cotterill's "Thirty-three Teeth" introduces Dtui in greater detail than in Book One, and her fragile but fierce mother might represent all Laotian mothers.
Siri's got an advantage most coroners lack: he's haunted, literally, by a spirit named Ya Ming. Other spiritualists recognize Ya Ming by his brilliant green eyes, which Siri shares. Ya Ming also has 33 teeth - a clue to this exotic mystery.
I would never have gotten the Lao pronunciations right if I'd read the book instead of listening to it. It would have been like being poked on the ribs during a movie - distracting and annoying. I'm glad I went for the Audible.
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Thoroughly likable main characters develop individually and interpersonally from one book to the next.
It brings to mind the Ladies #1 Detective Agency series in that it provides a warm and vivid introduction to another culture. Both series possess a dry British wit. As the Dr. Siri Investigations explore the spirit world as well, they provide a fascinating intersection of the traditional beliefs with the political realities of the mid-70's.
Initially, I thought Clive Chafer's reading style monotonous. But the more I listen to these, the more I hear the humor and depth in this understated delivery. I find myself listening to each book twice, starting again as soon as I complete one to savor it more fully. And then I immediately download the next!
I remember the pleasure with which I discovered Michael Connelly's detective series, but over time the darkness of Bosch's world view and the alienation of the major characters induced me to back off. This series, in contrast, has some evil and genuinely negative characters, but the overall impression is one of great warmth, respect and even joy. In places it's laugh out loud funny. I'm grateful that one reviewer's related that his Laotian wife found the series presented an accurate physical and cultural portrait of her homeland. I was apprehensive that Thirty-Three Teeth might not live up to the freshness and originality of The Coroner's Lunch. Happily, this second book in the series deepened my appreciation of the culture, the characters and the nature of their growing intimacy.
If you go onto the author's web site, you'll see he's quite an accomplished cartoonist, too.
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