Saturday, October 30, 2010
Colin Cotterill/THE CORONER'S LUNCH
1975, Laos: Dr. Siri Paiboun, who is 72, has been cordially invited (in other words, coerced) by the new communist government in Laos to become the national coroner (basically, he's the only person left after the revolution with a medical degree). Siri isn't thrilled about being denied retirement, but it turns out he has a knack for his new job. Furthermore, as the only official examiner of dead bodies, Siri is in the unique position of being able to spot a murder.
In this first book in Colin Cotterill's series, Dr. Siri faces two mysteries: the suspicious death of a politician's wife (appearances indicate an allergic reaction, but Siri's not buying it, for a number of reasons), and then, separately, the resurfaced bodies of two Vietnamese soldiers who were found in a Laotian lake. Unfortunately, there are those who, for various reasons, don't want Siri digging to deeply into either case, and soon it becomes very clear that his life is in real danger.
I chose to blog about this book because I was SO pleased by it. I immediately turned around and gave my copy to my mother, a devout mystery reader, and was gratified when she felt the exact same way. It's a really, really well done mystery, and very atmospheric. Although I am not really qualified to say the setting is authentic--I've never been to Laos--Cotterill's creation certainly feels authentic. Coming out of it, I feel better educated as well as entertained. I definitely intend to read his next book soon.