Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

I first was introduced to Colin Cotterill via the delightful novel Killed at the Whim of a Hat. What I came away with from that book was an interesting story, non-transparent mystery, realistic characters, all in a part of the world that I am exceedingly unfamiliar with. There was a gentleness to the story, too -- none of the harshness so often found in many of the mysteries on the market these days. Almost and old world charm. (Were I the type to compare books I could drum up a likeness to at least one series set in a third world country, but since I despise it when people say things like "a cross between Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the Vish Puri, Indian detective novels" I won't.)

This is a different series, featuring Dr Siri Paiboun, who at 72, instead of being able to relax in life, finds himself appointed national coroner in Laos of 1975.  Though he is a physician, he has no training as a coroner, which shouldn't matter, as he is more or less expected to find the cause of death for the bodies presented to him to be pretty much what the newly installed Communist government wants the cause to be. This would be fine, but Siri is not exactly a "play by the rules" kind of guy, and like the Siri familiar to most iPhone owners of today, seeks answers to questions, and often finds them, even if they're not the correct answer. But Siri perseveres to find truths, and that makes the tale that much more interesting.  That he is aided by ghosts of the dead, and some interesting side characters fleshes things out a bit.

Anyhow, I truly enjoyed this book, and suspect that any of Coterill's books will be winners for me.

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