My contribution this week to the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is T is for Thirty Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill.
I think that is enough Ts for anyone.
Two mismatched corpses found on a bicycle outside the Ministry of Sport, Information and Culture, and a collection of savaged bodies piling up in the Vientiane morgue have created work for Dr Siri Paliboun, chief coroner to the Laos People's Republic.
One of the bicycle corpses seems to have been a bureaucrat thrown through a window after trying to open a mysterious chest belonging to the Laotian royal family. The savaged bodies may well have been attacked by an old escaped black bear, or something altogether more frightening. When Dr Siri is sent north to Luang Prabang, the former Laotian royal capital, in order to autopsy a couple of badly burned bodies, he meets a VIP gardener, and a group of shamans with a sense of fun.
Meanwhile back in Vientiane Nurse Dtui does a spot of investigating on her own.
This is the second book in Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri series following on from The Coroner's Lunch. These books are superb reads full of lovely characters such as Siri himself, his trusty assistants Nurse Dtui and Mr Geung, his politburo friend Civilai, Inspector Phosy, and the annoying neighbour Mrs Vong. The reader learns about Laotian culture and the shamanic spirit world, and the whole story is told with extraordinary charm and a big dose of humour.
'Ahh. They're are devious, the phibob. Those from the south especially so. Yeh Ming has obviously made some powerful enemies over the past thousand years.'
When I realised these books had a supernatural element I wondered whether I would enjoy them, but the stories are so beautifully constructed that the shamanism is entirely believable, and who could resist any book with such a odontological title.
The people were suffering. They'd tightened their belts at the behest of the new regime. They'd pooled their scant resources and given up their humble luxuries. And what reward did they get for their unselfishness? Zilch. They needed festivals and concerts and happy days now and then to forget their frustrations.
With a son in the event production industry I can fully agree with the above passage. He even landed at Vientiane airport recently on a trip from Phnom Penh to Hanoi, and along with the books featuring Mr Geung [who has Downs Syndrome] as well, I feel a warm affinity with this series. Luckily there are four more to read.