Cotterill, Colin, (c. 2004). The Coroner’s Lunch. Soho Press. 257 pages , $22.95.
Appointed as State Coroner in Communist Laos, Dr. Siri upsets the Party by taking his job seriously, solving politically sensitive murders with his unique style.
Seventy three year old Dr. Siri is looking forward to retirement regardless of the societal upheaval surrounding him in 1975 Communist Laos. An apolitical, Parisian educated doctor, the Party magistrate appoints Dr. Siri to the position of state coroner knowing that he will be a good communist and tow the party line. But Dr. Siri is not one to do much towing and finds himself butting heads with his appointees when he decides to take his job seriously and work the cases brought to him. Along with his two assistants, Siri uncovers the secrets behind three intertwined murder plots much to the annoyance of those in charge.
1970’s Cambodia is brought to life through the sobering and sarcastic observations of Dr. Siri. He is a realist that enjoys the beauty of his country while he puzzles over the contradictions of ruling power. The country’s history is eloquently brought in to the story through the power of dreams which helps remind the readers that Cambodia is a country rich with cultural intent.
Cotterill successfully describes an area of the world that has long been in a tug-a-war for its identity. Dr. Siri and his colorful assistants are wonderful characters that add three dimensions to a period of time that proved to be both chaotic and predictable. Effective sleuthing will appeal to the mystery lover and the area and political turmoil that create such vivid imagery will appeal to the history buff. The combination is effective and makes for a perfect “cozy” read.
The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton.
Book Discussion Questions:
What do we learn in the first pages about Dr. Siri?
What is Laos’s relationship to Thailand? to North Vietnam?
Does the paranormal add to to take away from your enjoyment of the story?
Reasons for selection:
Colin Cotterill was recommend to me by a friend who knew I enjoyed mysteries and stories that took place in other cultures. Cotterill is a great find and I recommend him to many people who enjoy a light, yet intriguing read with fun, surprising characters.