Tuesday, March 02, 2010


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.

Laos 1977.
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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - I'm so glad you liked this one : ). I really enjoy the character of Dr. Siri, and the supernatural element doesn't bother me at all. I also happen to think that you chose a particularly appropriate title, given your profession... ;)

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Noomi Rapace said...

The novel is much more interested in the people and their situations than the mystery." - so this must be for men??? ;) At least it sound like a quite .
so if you asked questions of that kind, I would also have a chance of winning your books.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

And I plan to read the first Cotterell for my challenge. Don´t know when I´ll get round to it, though. But I will - and I am sure I´ll also get round to all these teeth.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Noomi, there will be a short Spring Quiz coming soon. I am interested in the mystery but in this series I think the characters and situations are far stronger.

Dorte, your challenge is definitely getting me round to reading more of my TBR pile.

Margot, it still feels like only yesterday that I was working, but I retired seven years ago. My left thumb joint was a bit like some baseball players in that it only functioned well pumped up on steroids.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Well it's your fault that I broke my latest self-imposed book buying ban. I lasted a month without buying one but your review made me remember how much I enjoyed the first book in this series last year and how much I really want to read this one. So I ordered it yesterday. Happily (for me) your currency isn't doing so well and ours is quite spiffy so ordering it from a UK store didn't cost too much :)

6:15 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I am used to taking the blame Bernadette, and in this case I will accept it with great pleasure. ;o)
"Your currency isn't doing so well" is a masterly understatement. I keep reminding the children that their great-grandfather was Australian in case they ever want to emigrate.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Wow, Norman, Noomi Rapace has commented on your blog! What an honour.

1:29 PM  

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