Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Coroner's Lunch

The Coroner's Lunch
Author: Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime, 2005
272 pages

It's the mid-1970s and seventy-two year old Dr. Siri Paiboun is living in Vientiane, Laos just after the Pathet Lao government came to power. Although he's old enough and would like to be retired, Dr. Siri has been called . . . er, placed into service as the state coroner for the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Not that he's a trained or experience coroner, because he's not.

He's a medical doctor, though, trained in France. Widowed several years ago, he now has some fantastic sidekicks: an ambitious nurse and a morgue helper with Down's Syndrome. And he has friends in high places in the government -- sort of. His neighbor spies on him, and he has a crush on the sandwich maker. These are just a few of the other colorful characters in this wonderful first-in-a-series mystery by English-born author Colin Cotterill.

Dr. Siri is a man who takes things in stride and has a sense of humor despite the time and circumstances. But things get deadly serious when the morgue starts getting customers. A fisherman loses his legs in a horrible boating accident -- but was it really an accident? The wife of a Party leader keels over at a luncheon -- natural causes or murder? Three drowned soldiers  -- what really happened?

These are just a few of the cases that Dr. Siri must solve with his limited skills in forensic sciences. Dr. Siri faces all sorts of challenges, from lack of basic supplies and equipment to lack of support from his own superiors. But he's a resourceful man, and he's also got something else on his side. Let's just say he has some special abilities. 

The Coroner's Lunch is a mystery with added elements of fantasy and historical fiction. Not being very familiar with Laos or its history, I felt like I was learning something while also being entertained by this wonderful main character and his excellent supporting cast. I want so badly to continue reading all the Dr. Siri books in order. I think you'll be seeing more Dr. Siri books on this blog . . . sooner rather than later.