Title: The Coroner’s Lunch
Author: Colin Cotterill
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: December 1, 2004
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Book #1 of the Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series
Where I got the book: Book club leader
Date Finished Reading: January 15, 2019
Goodreads Description: Laos, 1978: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has been unwillingly appointed the national coroner of newly-socialist Laos. Though his lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky to say the least, 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.
My Review: This book was picked by my book club leader. I had never heard of the title or the author, so was a bit skeptical when it was introduced. However, I couldn’t have been more pleased. This book had all the makings of a great mystery with a cast of likable, and at times humorous, characters; a thrilling mystery plot that kept you guessing to the end; a descriptive setting with a glimpse into life and culture in Laos during the 1970s; and even a little bit of fantasy.
Dr. Siri is one of the most interesting main characters I’ve ever read in a mystery series. He is an aging doctor/coroner, who is not exactly crotchety but just feels that at his age he is too old to be subdued. He often states what he thinks and how he feels without care of punishment from the government. That right there makes him an intriguing character, but then he also shows such love and respect for his staff at the coroner’s office, Dr. Geung and Dtui, that you end up adoring the main character. A little random bit of the story is that the dead victims that he comes across on his coroner’s table talk to him through his dreams. As random as that may be, it somehow is imported into the story perfectly. All it does is add to the plot.
The author does a fantastic job describing the role of the government in the every day lives of the people in Laos and their feelings about the government and the quality of their lives, while still moving the plot along with quite a few intense action scenes. The author makes you feel a bit anxious for the safety of the main character in multiple scenes.
My only complaint, which is a very small complaint, is that the author incorporated a technique that drives me a bit nuts in mysteries, where the authors use a few pages at the end of the book to finish piecing together the mystery. In this case, I don’t think I would have had a problem with that if the author would have used Dr. Siri for this technique, but it was not told from his perspective, even though the rest of the novel was.
However, that is such a minor thing when this was such a spectacular and engaging read. For once, every one in the book club agreed. The best part, is that this is just the first book in a long series, so you don’t have to say goodbye and move on.
My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½