The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
No. in series: 1
Series detective: Dr. Siri Paiboun
Type of investigator: Coroner/doctor
Genre: Historical mystery
Type of mystery: Murder
Setting & time: The Lao People’s Democratic Republic; 1976
At age 72 and after a long service to the communist cause, Dr. Siri Paiboun had been looking forward to a nice retirement, but the newly installed authorities had other ideas and appointed him as the state coroner. With no experience of the work he is expected to do, no interest in the job and limited equipment, he tries to make the best of things, but it isn’t until a comrade’s wife dies mysteriously and the bodies of three dead Vietnamese soldiers turn up in a lake that things start to get interesting.
I think I have a new favourite detective. Dr. Siri is deliciously grumpy and sarcastic, but he also has the good detective’s curiosity and willingness to find out the truth no matter what, and combined with his healthy disrespect for authority this makes him a delightful character. The other characters are well-drawn as well, the book is funny and gruesome by turns, the descriptions of the Lao people and the country interesting and colourful, and the supernatural elements add spicy note to the mix. It’s going on my keeper shelves. 4 stars.