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The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill (2004)

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Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Communist since 1975, Laos, the setting of Cotterill's book, is a country of which I know little but hope to learn more through this series. I loved the beautifully developed characters, especially the kind, tender, considerate Dr Sirl Palboun and his gentle humour. I look forward to reading more of his "cases". This was an interesting mystery with characters, methods and even the crime, so different from the usual fare. Highly recommended. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 8, 2014 |
At an age when most people would be thinking seriously about retirement, Dr. Siri Paiboun has embarked on a new career. At the age of 72 he is appointed as Laos's state coroner – a job he really doesn't want and for which he has no training. He has a lab and two assistants – a young nurse and a man with Down syndrome – but he has few supplies or textbooks. He does have an unusual resource that compensates for his lack of experience. He sees dead people. They visit him in his dreams and tell him things about their deaths. As Dr. Siri works on three cases, two of which appear to be related, he becomes aware that his life is in danger. He races against an unknown assailant to identify the agents responsible for the murders.

Dr. Siri is old enough not to fear the consequences of speaking his mind. This results in some very funny conversations with his much younger superiors. Dr. Siri doesn't spend all of his time in the lab. Readers get a nicely detailed picture of 1970s Laos as Dr. Siri goes back and forth between work and home, visits friends, and travels to a Hmong village to find evidence that can help him determine the cause of death of one of his “customers”. I can see why this series has so many fans. Although I liked a lot of things about this book, the emphasis on spirit possession exceeded my comfort level. Since that seems to be a key feature of the series, I doubt I'll continue reading it. ( )
3 vote cbl_tn | Oct 7, 2014 |
This is an intriguing and delightful surprise, a mystery set in Laos in the 1970s, with the “detective” a native-born coroner, Dr. Siri, who is in his 70s and has seen much in his life. Cotterill sets his writing style on the first page, with unpredictable, lovely choices of words. His characters are quirky and individual, the plot is full of the culture and politics of that region of the world, and the bonus: magical realism, supernatural elements, and “animate” descriptions of both nature and the inanimate. Not only are the characters unique, but they are also used unobtrusively to address discriminations against age, gender and special needs. The plot kept me guessing all the way to the end—and usually guessing wrong—but the ending was . . . weird. A bit of a SPOILER alert coming—

but my guess is that Dr. Siri cannot achieve spiritual connections through the good talisman unless he also accepts the evil talisman, because both exist in the world. I’ll need to read more of this series to find out! ( )
  jennorthcoast | Sep 6, 2014 |
Dr. Siri Paiboun, a doctor in Laos, reluctantly becomes the coroner in the capital city after the communist revolution in 1975. Still, he leads a fairly quiet life until the wife of Comrade Kham dies under mysterious circumstances and Siri is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Yes, I have finally succumbed to the book warbling of many fellow LibraryThing members and begun reading the Dr. Siri series. I really enjoyed the setting of 1976 in Laos, and learned a lot about the country and time period through information that was intertwined flawlessly with the story; Dr. Siri is a sort-of communist who is a bit cynical about the regime, but he can get away with saying a lot because of his position and age. He communicates with the spirits of the departed, mostly in his dreams, which means that he's often working backwards - Siri knows the solution, but just has to put together the facts to support it. As a result, this reminded me more of a classic Agatha Christie story in which some of the key parts of the puzzle aren't revealed until the very end. His friends and co-workers are well-drawn characters in their own right. I'm definitely keeping the series on my list to continue when I'm in need of a dependably good story. ( )
1 vote bell7 | Jul 23, 2014 |
Excellent story, with humor, some serious stuff too, some magical realism about Dr Siri, a 72 y/o surgeon who is appointed state coroner for Laos in 1976. Wonderful crew, including a nurse and a man with Down Syndrome, help him in the morgue. ( )
  DavidO1103 | Jul 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Colin Cotterillprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Amezawa, YasushiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Diari, MatteoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malfoy, ValérieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mohr, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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With the kindest thanks and lots of love to the following folks: Pornsawan, Bouasawan, Chantavone, Sounieng, Ketkaew, Dr Pongruk, Bounlan, Don, Souk, Soun, Michael and his secretary, Somdee, David L., Nok, Dtee, Siri, Yayoi and Steph.
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Tran, Tran, and Hok broke through the heavy end-of-wet-season clouds.
Most of the results from Siri’s morgue relied on archaic color tests: combinations of chemicals or litmus samples. These were more suitable for telling what wasn’t, rather than what was.
We, my children, are no longer common coroners. We are investigators of death.
He couldn’t imagine why old men would chase new-hatched chicks when there were pretty hens in the yard.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Most of the educated class has fled, but Dr. Siri Paiboun, a Paris-trained doctor whose late wife had been an ardent Communist, remains. And so this 72-year-old physician is appointed state coroner, despite the fact that he has no training or even supplies to use in performing his new task. What he does have is curiosity and integrity. At his age he is not about to let a bunch of ignorant bureaucrats dictate to him. One of his first cases involves three bodies recovered from a reservoir, but Dr. Siri establishes that the cause of death was not drowning. These men seem to have been electrocuted, perhaps tortured, and they also seem to be Vietnamese, which could have international repercussions. And then there is the inexplicable death of a Party bigwig's equally important wife. She collapsed and died at a banquet. But Dr. Siri doesn't think her death was from natural causes. In the course of his investigations, Dr. Siri must travel to his birthplace, a Hmong village he has not visited for more than 60 years, where he makes a profound discovery, not only about the motive for several murders, but about himself.… (more)

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