Monday, September 28, 2009
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
Protagonist: Dr. Siri Paiboun
Setting: People's Democratic Republic of Laos, 1976
Dr. Siri is set to retire, should retire, deserves retirement. At 72, he’s given years of service to the Communist cause. But his superiors need a national coroner – “from each according to ability, to each according to need,” a top government official lectures Siri – and so the doctor reluctantly becomes a coroner, learning from dusty books. Well, it turns out Siri has a knack for this. First, a government official’s wife is brought to his morgue, ostensibly a natural death, but Siri suspects not. Then two Vietnamese men are found drowned, possibly tortured, a finding that could endanger international relations. And Siri is flown to a northern army base in the jungle where commanders have mysteriously been dying.
The first in this series has plenty to keep you riveted. But what’s really special about this book is the witty writing and richly drawn characters. Oh, and the good doctor also sees dead people – those who come to him in his morgue also come to him in visions.
Every once in a while comes a book that surprises you because it is so unlike anything else in the genre you've read -- The Coroner's Lunch is that book. The rest in the series (which you can be sure I'll be reading) are:
Disco For the Departed
Anarchy and Old Dogs
Curse of the Pogo Stick
The Merry Misogynist