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The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill (2004)

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Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
This was a fun read, to squeeze in on the weekend between the regular chores and Christmas planning activities. This is the first of a mystery series, set in 1970s Laos, starring an elderly wanna-be-retired-surgeon who is coerced into becoming the only coroner after the revolution. Siri might be extremely reluctant, but he is still a conscientious and honest professional, who does his job too well. This of course, is going to get him into trouble, as he clashes with the bureacrats and the bad guys. He is quite likeable and funny. When his obnoxious boss-judge orders him to start wearing proper shoes instead of sandals, because "Civilized people wear shoes. Our comrades expect it of us.", Siri replies, "...I think if the proletariat are going to kiss my feet, the least I can do is give them a few toes to wrap their lips around."
A bit of a paranormal element was slipped in, which was a bit too much -- I think it could have been left in the arena of dreams/intuition/gut feeling/ rather than being elevated to the significance it was given in the later parts of the book. But overall, it was a fun little jaunt with some snappy funny dialogue, a bit of a mystery, and some likeable characters. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
It's 1975 and 72 year old Dr. Siri finds himself assigned as the new coroner under the new communist regime instead of the retirement he expected to enjoy. No matter that he has had no training in the field - he teaches himself as much as he can and is assisted by a bright young nurse who aspires to gain coroner's skills and an engaging man with Down's Syndrome. Dr. Siri is a kind, honest man who finds himself in danger when he begins to ask questions about some of his "guests". To top it off, Dr. Siri is unique in that occasionally, the dead visit him in his dreams. It sounds absurd but it works and it works brilliantly. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
This is the first book and the reader's introduction to the Dr. Siri series. Set in Laos 1976, Siri Paiboun is a 72-year old doctor and veteran of the uprising that put the Communists in power that year. Heading toward retirement, Siri is pressed into service as the country's chief coroner, filling a gap left as many of the more educated Lao populace fled to Thailand following the revolution.

There are two main mysteries in this book. The first involves the wife of a high-ranking government official who dies under mysterious circumstances. Dr. Siri isn't sure how she was killed but becomes determined to discover her cause of death. The second plot involves the discovery of three Vietnamese corpses in a reservoir, apparently subjected to torture and then drowned. This case has serious implications due to the tense relationship between Laos and also newly liberated Vietnam. Dr. Siri joins forces with a Vietnamese coroner to try and untangle the mess.

Intelligently plotted and laced with whimsical humor, the author tells a mystery that combines political intrigue, social commentary, and Lao folklore and culture. This is a wonderful book and the characters are very compelling. We meet Siri's morgue assistants Geung and Dtui, his friend and politburo member Civalai, his police partner Phosy, and his inexperienced bureaucratic boss Kaeng. If you are of an “age” to remember the political struggles of the early 1970s you will enjoy this even more. I'm always on the lookout for a great mystery series and this more than fits my criteria. Can't wait to get the next one and see what happens to my “latest” favorite characters.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old physician in Laos, has been looking forward to his retirement and lazy days sitting by the river but he is stunned to find that he has been appointed head Coroner, or truthfully, the only coroner. It is 1976 and the Communist party has taken control of the country. Siri has no choice but to agree to take on the post as he knows he no longer can count on a pension and the fact that he could very well be sent away to be "re-educated" to be a good citizen. He has no interest in politics having left the revolutionary work to his late wife Boua and he is not trained to be a coroner but Siri reluctantly agrees. He is immediately tasked with the autopsy of a high ranking official's wife. His investigation into her death is thwarted by her uncooperative husband and the suspicious disappearance of his reports and autopsy photos. Siri understands that there is something that her husband is covering up but Siri is determined to find the cause of the woman's death. When Siri investigates the death of a Vietnamese man who appears to have been tortured Siri himself becomes the target of a shadowy assasin who will stop at nothing to keep Siri from finding the true reason for the man's death.

I really like Dr. Siri and his two helpers, nurse Dtui and Mr. Geung, a morgue assistant with Down's syndrome. The three of them share a deep sense of curiosity and dedication to their patients. There is quite a bit of paranormal activity in Siri's life as he is able to converse with the deceased in his dreams. At times the political aspects of the story became quite confusing to me but it was a good book nonethless.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
A light-hearted detective story that reminded me a little of The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Dr Siri is an aged surgeon who was looking forward to a peaceful retirement... until the new communist regime in Lao insisted that he become their chief coroner instead. Despite knowing nothing about autopsy, Siri sets out to learn the skills for his new trade (aged 72) and along the way uncovers more than he bargained for. Quick-paced and with a good amount of humour, I enjoyed this and would give it 3.5 stars. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
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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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Dedication
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.
First words
Tran, Tran, and Hok broke through the heavy end-of-wet-season clouds.
Quotations
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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