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Posts Tagged ‘Dr Siri Paiboun’

This book is the first in a series featuring Dr Siri Paiboun.  It is set in 1976, in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which has just been taken over by the communist party.  Dr Siri would dearly love to retire, but instead he finds himself reluctantly given the post of coroner, despite having no experience in that job at all.  Along with his two assistants, the feisty and eager Dtui and the nervous Geung, who suffers from Down Syndrome, Siri has to learn the job while he’s doing it.  When the wife of a prominent party member dies suddenly, Siri suspects that there is more to it than the husband’s claim that a bad diet killed her.  Things get really complicated when three Vietnamese men turn up dead, and appearing to have been tortured.  As Siri investigates it becomes clear that some people don’t want him to discover the truth.

I have slightly mixed feelings about this book, but overall I would say I enjoyed it.  The writing is wry and amusing, and for such a macabre subject, the book is fairly light-hearted.  For me, the character made the story.  I really liked Siri, and his two assistants, and also his friend Civilai, whose connections prove useful to Siri.

However, the plot seemed to be unnecessarily complicated.  The murder of the party member’s wife, and the mystery surrounding the three Vietnamese men would both have made interesting subjects for novels in their own right, but to have them both feature in one novel, made the storyline convoluted.  There was also a third storyline wher Siri travels to the Hmong region, in order to discover the truth behind some more mysterious deaths, and here the novel takes a supernatural turn, which did not personally appeal to me.

Overall, I would say the book was enjoyable, due to the very likeable main characters; the mysteries which Siri tries to solve are of secondary importance.  I probably would read more books in this series.

(Author’s rather lovely website can be found here.)

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