Laos, 1978: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has unwillingly been appointed the national coroner of the new socialist Laos. His lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky, to say the least. But Siri’s sense of humor gets him through his often frustrating days. When the body of the wife of a prominent politician comes through his morgue, Siri has reason to suspect the woman has been murdered. To get to the truth, Siri and his team face government secrets, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, Hmong shamans, botched romances, and other deadly dangers. Somehow, Siri must figure out a way to balance the will of the party and the will of the dead.
Confronted by the poisoning of an important official's wife and the sudden appearance of three bodies that may create an international incident between Laos and Vietnam, 72-year-old state coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun keeps his cool in Cotterill's engaging whodunit, set in Laos a year after the 1975 Communist takeover. Ably assisted by the entertaining Geung and ambitious Dtui, Siri calmly gleans clues from minute examinations of the bodies while circumnavigating bureaucratic red tape to arrive at justice. Only an attempt on his life manages to rattle him and for good reason. In addition to being comfortable around corpses, Siri actually converses with the dead during his dreams. These scenes come across more as a personification of Siri's natural intuition than as a supernatural element. Less explainable is Siri's journey to a northern Laos army base, where he becomes involved in the witchcraft and spirit world of the local tribespeople. Despite this minor detour into the implausible and a later, jarring change in viewpoint, this debut mystery, with its convincing and highly interesting portrayal of an exotic locale, marks the author as someone to watch.
The Coroner’s Lunch
Very good. Brief also. I enjoyed it throughly! I hope that you do too! And it’s a series! More books!
Clever, witty, and unlike any other detective story. A delightful, upbeat peek at another culture in a turbulent time.
Good story but hard to follow
I liked this book a lot, but it was hard to follow in places. Too many Laotian words without explanations, and not enough embedded reminders of who each character is. I will try more of this series though. Hopefully the author's skills improved.