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The Coroner's Lunch Paperback – November 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Confronted by the poisoning of an important official's wife and the sudden appearance of three bodies that may create an international incident between Laos and Vietnam, 72-year-old state coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun keeps his cool in Cotterill's engaging whodunit, set in Laos a year after the 1975 Communist takeover. Ably assisted by the entertaining Geung and ambitious Dtui, Siri calmly gleans clues from minute examinations of the bodies while circumnavigating bureaucratic red tape to arrive at justice. Only an attempt on his life manages to rattle him—and for good reason. In addition to being comfortable around corpses, Siri actually converses with the dead during his dreams. These scenes come across more as a personification of Siri's natural intuition than as a supernatural element. Less explainable is Siri's journey to a northern Laos army base, where he becomes involved in the witchcraft and spirit world of the local tribespeople. Despite this minor detour into the implausible and a later, jarring change in viewpoint, this debut mystery, with its convincing and highly interesting portrayal of an exotic locale, marks the author as someone to watch.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This first Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery introduces readers to a delightful old man conscripted in 1975 to become the chief medical examiner of Laos after the nation's "only doctor with a background in performing autopsies had crossed the river" into Thailand, "allegedly in a rubber tube." Siri thought he'd settle down with a state pension after helping the Communists force the Laotian royal family from power, but the party won't let him retire until he is a drooling shell. So the spry seventysomething settles into a routine of studying outdated medical texts and scrounging scarce supplies to perform the occasional cursory examination while making witty observations about the bumbling new regime to his oddball assistants. But when the wife of a party leader turns up dead and the bodies of tortured Vietnamese soldiers start bobbing to the surface of a Laotian lake, all eyes turn to Siri. Faced with dueling cover-ups and an emerging international crisis, the doctor enlists old friends, Hmong shamans, forest spirits, dream visits from the dead--and even the occasional bit of medical deduction--to solve the crimes. If Siri lives long enough, he'll make a wry, eccentric addition to the genre. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Edition edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569474184
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569474181
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,404 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

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on December 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Colin Cotterill's "The Coroner's Lunch" proved to be a gem of a find and a treat of a read. It's a bit hard to classify this book because while it deals with serious themes of murder and corruption, it is also written in almost light hearted and witty manner, full of irreverent humour, and with a slight mystical overtone. But once you start "The Coroner's Lunch," it is really hard to put this book down: swiftly paced with a few disparate subplots that seem unconnected, "The Coroner's Lunch" was completely unputdownble.

Set in Laos (once part of Indochine) and in 1975, "The Coroner's Lunch" follows the fortunes of Dr. Siri Paiboum, a Paris trained doctor, who joined the communist party and who has been fighting with them in the jungle, for the sake of the love of his life, his wife Boua. When the novel opens, the fight is over, the communists have won and Siri is now a 70-something year old widower, who is entertaining hopes of a well deserved retirement. Of course things don't go according to plan: because of a lack of trained professionals (most seemed to have fled the country), Siri is informed that he is now the state's only coroner even though he knows next to nothing about performing autopsies. Knowing that declining the privilege is not an option, our reluctant coroner soon finds himself fitted up less than properly equipped morgue and the help of one nurse, Dtui (who is fortunately quite intelligent) and an amiable man of all jobs, Geung, who has Down's Syndrome. Together all three seem to shuffle along adequately and happily. That is until the wife of an important official turns up dead at the morgue.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on July 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, thanks to V.J.Canberra for recommending this historical/esoteric/ethnic series of crime novels around Dr.Siri.
Meet the hero: the man is 72 and reluctantly (he would rather retire) national chief coroner of the recently turned Republic of Laos under communist Pathet Lao rule. The time is 1976. Dr.Siri is insufficiently qualified as well as equipped and staffed. He makes that up by being the founding father of cynicism. He has odd green eyes. Dogs hate him (until a turnaround point in the plot when they begin to love him). His bosses are weary of his atttitude. Women seem to love him, but he has only recently begun to notice, his wife died 10 years ago. He has been a long time party member, but for the wrong reasons (chercher la femme! though Thai radio propaganda against the new regime claim that all Lao communists are ugly.) On top of all this, Siri is psychic. He sees dead people, "all the time". (saw that movie? it would help)
All Asian countries are heavily infested with ghosts and spirits. Probably the poorer, the more infested. As Siri is otherwise short of resources, he makes best use of his off-curriculum abilities (which actually go against his scientific mindset.)
The novel has three concurrent crime cases, which stretch poor Siri's skills to the limits.
First, a communist top cadre's wife has died under strange circumstances. While this case is the most normal of the three and easily seen through, it provides most of the suspense in this otherwise rather funny book.
Second, three shady Vietnamese turn up killed, which threatens to cause an international confrontation. Siri solves the case and saves peace, which however doesn't fully convince; it may not be fully thought through.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David J. Baxter on October 10, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed this - thanks to the Shelfari community! This was recommended as I completed one of my reviews - just on the basis of other books I'd enjoyed. It's the first of a series (that I am really enjoying discovering!) dealing with the 70-year-old Lao coroner Dr Siri Paiboun, who - despite no training and little enthusiasm initially and paying scant respect to his new political masters (the Communist cadres control Laos) - does his job so well that he is difficult to replace. At 70, but still sprightly, he misses his wife, killed in the jungles by a grenade attack, but suspects she had fallen out of love with him, which makes his isolation worse, in some ways. In "The Coroner's Lunch", Siri suspects the that death of a wife of one of the Party leaders is not as innocent as it appears. Even though the equipment he has to investigate with is primitive, and the opposition to his investigation brutal, he perseveres ...
What makes his job both easier (in a weird sense) and harder is that Siri receives visits form the apirits of those he practises his coronial skills on. These both terrify him, and intesnify his need to find the truth - about himself, as well as the victims.
It's always great to find a new series to me, and I'm looking forward very much to tracking Dr Siri's story - a new old friend!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Addison Phillips on January 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The CORONER'S LUNCH is an amazing debut novel, with a lot of promise for future fun (there's a sequel, called THIRTY-THREE TEETH that is darned good), but which delivers in the here-and-now too.

Any summary description of this book will seem a bit hokey. What we have here is more than the sum of its parts. Let's see: we have septugenarian national coroner Suri Paiboun, repentant Communist guerilla rebel, in Laos in the 1970s. He's busy solving several murders in the most Holmesian manner possible while simultaneously wrapped up in a thriller (I won't give any spoilers on that). Oh. And he's also the current incarnation of a thousand year old warrior monk. Sounds... well, tortured or corny. But somehow the writing is permeated by just the right tinge of local flavor and the magic doesn't overcome the realism.

A nice debut. There's some growing room for Cotterill, as you'd expect in a first novel. But still very nice.
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