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Anarchy and Old Dogs (Soho Crime) Hardcover – August 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1970s Communist Laos, Cotterill's delightful fourth novel to feature Dr. Siri Paiboun, the Laotian national coroner and one of the more eccentric characters in crime fiction, and Paiboun's clever assistant, Nurse Dtui (after 2006's Disco for the Departed), nicely blends the supernatural, humor and intrigue. This time, their trials and tribulations begin with the death of Dr. Buagaew, a blind dentist hit by a truck. When blank papers are found on the dentist's body, Paiboun quickly discovers encoded writing in invisible ink. Aided by his friends, police officer Phosy and politburo member Civilai, Paiboun follows up on a number of clues and discovers that the code describes a series of chess moves. A trip to the southern Laotian city of Pakse draws him deeper into a complex political intrigue. Adding local color is Auntie Bpoo, a fortune-teller transvestite who predicts Paiboun will soon betray his country. This sometimes slapstick, sometimes serious, but always lively mystery is sure to bring the author many new readers. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

Two years after the Pathet Lao takeover, there is already a plot afoot to overthrow the Communist government of Laos. Or at least that's what the death of a blind dentist suggests to national coroner Siri Paiboun. With a fellow old revolutionary in tow, Dr. Siri follows his secret investigation to Pakse, where the coup might be percolating. It's a city even more down-at-the-heels than Vientiane, where "the government was starting to look like a depressingly unloved relative" bogged down in bureaucracy. Although the action is sparse, this ranks as the most thoughtful entry in a fine series. And while the good doctor doesn't encounter as many spirits as usual, he does confront the ghosts of an idealistic movement brought low by incompetence and Vietnamese meddling. Is an imperfect revolution preferable to royalist oppression? How much time should the government have to gets its act together? Siri addresses these questions with aplomb even as he and the delightful Nurse Dtui face such dramatic changes in their love lives that even the transvestite fortune-teller Auntie Bpoo might find them outlandish beyond belief. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Soho Crime
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Edition edition (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156947463X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569474631
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952. He taught and trained teachers around the world before settling in Thailand where he wrote and produced a forty-program language teaching series, English by Accident, for Thai national television. He spent sever

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Anarchy and Old Dogs" is Colin Cotterill's fourth investigation of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the national coroner of Laos. As with the previous three, it is set in 1977, about two years after the revolution delivered Laos into Communist hands. The wily and wiry Dr. Siri was in his youth a revolutionary firebrand, a fierce supporter of the People's government and advocate for the disposal of an abusive royal regime. But now 73 years old, Paiboun would prefer retirement to sparing with government bureaucrats in his understaffed and under-budget forensic operation. Seems in actual practice, communism is not quite the utopia promised in the musings of Marx or Lenin, painfully evident in chronic shortages of even the most fundamental necessities at the fumblings of officials in a government where political connections trump competence.

This is a refreshing and unusual crime fiction series, and as "Anarchy" proves, the talented Cotterill gets better with every new installment. This time around, a blind dentist is run down on the streets of the Laotian capital city of Vientiane. What seems to be an unfortunate accident takes on much deeper and sinister undercurrents, leading Siri and long time friend and fellow revolutionary Civilai Songsawat into a complicated and dangerous trail of intrigue and counterrevolution. Filling in some of the history missing in his prior works, Cotterill spins a thoughtful and insightful portrait of the struggles and failures of the young socialist government, showing deep respect and empathy for the Laotian people without glorifying the communist government that turns out about as oppressive as their predecessors.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on August 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
In 1977 Vientiane a truck ran over blind dentist Dr. Buagaew, killing him instantly. Everyone who witnessed the tragedy assumes the late pedestrian obviously owed karmic debt so no tears were shed. As is the case in these types of vehicular deaths, the Laotian National Coroner septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun is directed to perform a cursory review. He and his capable assistant Nurse Dtui assume nothing of their inquiry even when they find an odd anomaly of blank papers on the victim.

Paiboun soon realizes the papers actually contain encoded notes written in invisible ink. He and Dtui with the assistance of his closest comrades Police Officer Phosy and Politburo member Civilai begin to find clues related to the secret writings that to their shock is simply moves in a game of chess that sends the coroner to the city of Pakse where he begins to piece the puzzle together of a plot to overthrow the Communist regime.

Combining humorous eccentric characters like a fortune telling transvestite Auntie Bpoo and the corpse as a practicing blind dentist inside a strong serious investigation, Colin Cotterill continues his great late 1970s Laos mystery series with another excellent entry. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the truck hits the dentist and never slows down until the final confrontation between anarchists and the old dogs like the coroner. Readers will appreciate Colin Cotterill's fine tale with newcomers seeking the backlist (see DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED, THE CORONER'S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH).

Harriet Klausner
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Miran Ali on August 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the fourth installment of this wonderful series, our intrepid, ghost seeing, haunted doctor has to deal with some real life political problems and has to make some difficult choices. It has all the humour we've come to expect and some delicious Lao food. If you're new to this series then please start with the first one, since there is some chronology. If you like mysteries set in languid exotic locales, at a time which is now gone, this is the book for you.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
All of Cotterhill's adventures featuring Laos' national (and only) coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun, are extremely enjoyable, but this fourth one might be the best so far. It's 1977, and the Pathet Lao are still struggling mightily to make the transition from jungle insurgents to ruling government. The previous three books all worked a bit of Laos' history into the stories, but here politics and history really propel the plot, and it works wonderfully.

The seemingly everyday death of a blind man who steps in the path of a truck with failed brakes leads Dr. Siri and his redoubtable assistants into the heart of a royalist plot to overthrow the wobbly new communist government. Throughout the series we've see Dr. Siri lamenting the haplessness of the regime he fought to bring to power. However, he did spend thirty years in the jungle with the Pathet Lao, losing his wife, and forsaking hope for a family -- so he'll be damned if he's going to let his former comrades become usurped so quickly. But proof of the plot is elusive, and as in his other adventures, Dr. Siri is forced to travel to unravel matters. This time he heads to the crumbling city of Pakse with his old politburo pal and lunch companion Civilai. Meanwhile, the delightful Nurse Dtui and the honorable cop Phosy head to a very different place to poke around on their own.

Slowly but surely, Dr. Siri & Co. find their way to the heart of the conspiracy, with some rather unexpected results. Despite the appearance of a transvestite fortune-teller, the story is a little more sedate than others in the series -- the supernatural elements that play a large role in previous books are much more subdued here. Instead, the sad realities of realpolitik drive the plot. Events end on a note of great hope and happiness, whetting the appetite for the next entry in a great series.
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