Characters with learning disabilities rarely appear in crime fiction and when they do it is usually as a suspect or a victim. I found it a breath of fresh air to come across Colin Cotterill's character of the morgue labourer, Mr Geung in The Coroner's Lunch.
Here Dr Siri deliberately misunderstands the obnoxious young Judge Haeng in a discussion about Mr Geung's future employment.
'I believe it is time for you to get rid of the moron.'
'The moron?' Siri shuddered. 'Oh, I don't know. I know he has his off days, but I don't think that is enough reason to kick Director Suk out of his job.'......................
'Director....? Goodness, no, Siri. I'm talking about the retard you have as a morgue labourer. I'm prepared to pay a full salary for that position now.'
'I'm so pleased. Mr Geung will be delighted when I tell him he can have a living wage.'
'Pay attention. I'm telling you to get rid of him and hire a normal person.'
'I can't get rid of him. He's the only one there who knows what to do.' .............
.....Judge Haeng, Mr Geung has a mild strain of Down Syndrome.
'He's constantly reminding me of procedures I've forgotten, and where things are stored. He has an amazing memory, and my nurse Dtui and I love him very much.'
This discussion of Mr Geung's qualities and abilities resonated with me as my younger son Jake, who has Down's syndrome, works part time in a cafe. A few weeks ago I thanked the lady who owns the business for looking after him, and her reply was 'he looks after us, and is better than the others.'
As far as his 'amazing memory' is concerned when he went off to residential college we took the opportunity to sort out the various forty seven Star Trek videotapes he had bought over a number of years. These had been purchased on forty seven different trips to W.H Smith or HMV where Jake spent about 20 minutes each time studying the boxes before announcing which one he would buy.
As we sorted through the videotapes, whose covers looked identical to us, we realised with utter astonishment that there were no duplicates. Jake had somehow managed to read or recognise and remember which episodes he had purchased already, and not buy that videotape again. Experts would say that memory feat was impossible for someone with Down's syndrome, and so would I if I had not witnessed it myself.
We moved on to buy DVDs but Jake is the only one who can operate the DVD machine!
I am looking forward to reading more about Mr Geung, Dr Siri and Nurse Dtui but at www.thehoneytones.com you can follow the further adventures of Jake and his friends on their visit to Dartmoor Prison.