Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Coroner's Lunch

I recently finished this novel, about which I had posted earlier here and here. The book, first in Colin Cotterill's series about Dr. Siri Paiboun, sole coroner in Laos, was a little cozier than I'd have liked. This was a surprise in a story that involves international politics and deaths possibly caused by torture. And supernatural elements are involved, though Cotterill manages to make them interesting.

Such elements play a greater role in the novel than do the politics. This is surprising, too, since the plot involves killings that could escalate into an international incident between Laos and Vietnam. I don't know; I just don't associate spirits and dreams with high-level diplomacy. Still, I'll likely read other novels in the series because Siri is such an appealing protagonist. He's smart, he improvises under circumstances of deprivation, he has compassion for his colleagues, and he's impatient with impediments to his work.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007


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Blogger Dave Knadler said...

I saw your earlier post on this guy, and the character and milieu both sound intriguing. I'm going to pick this up.

July 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This was a tough book for me to write about critically. It seemed a bit sentimental at times, but I recognize that that's not a critical judgment.

I once read a comment that included Cotterill's books among those set in countries not the author's own that don't ring true. I've often been wary of such books, but whom would I be kidding if I criticized The Coroner's Lunch on that basis? To some extent, this book did function as a travelogue for me. Besides, Cotterill doesn't lay the picturesque on too heavily. It's more a matter of his protagonist facing everyday conditions very different from what most of us are probably used to in our crime fiction and in our daily lives.

I found a post about this novel on French blog maintained by a woman who lives in Laos. I asked her if the book offered an accurate picture of Laotian life. I'll have to keep checking back to see if she answers.

July 22, 2007  

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