book cover of Disco for the Departed
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Disco for the Departed

(The third book in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series)
A novel by

Colin Cotterill made a considerable impression with his previous novel The Coroner's Lunch, a book that succeeded in being something entirely new in the crime fiction field. His protagonist, the elderly coroner, Dr Siri Paiboun, was something unusual in the genre: in his 70s, but still immensely sharp, struggling with his career in the 1970s as the only coroner in Laos, a country which is a hotbed of dishonesty and corruption.

That book won the author many friends, with favourable comparisons being made to the novels of Alexander McCall Smith (but always in Cotterill's favour - his narratives wear a darker hue than that of the more cosy world of McCall Smith). And here is Dr Siri again in the equally diverting Disco for the Departed, which is in fact, the third outing for one of the most entertaining crime protagonists around. Siri finds himself summoned to the mountains of Huaphan Province -- the very region where the totalitarian Communist rulers of the country hid from the authorities before their own accession to power. But as celebrations are underway for the 'success' of the new regime (which, of course, can do no wrong), a human arm is discovered sticking out of a concrete walk, which has been laid from the president's cave hideout to his splendid new home under the cliffs. Siri is handed the job of uncovering the arm (and the body to which it is attached) and identifying the corpse. His autopsy reveals that the body was buried alive, but in order to track down the killer, the elderly pathologist has to call on some of his supernatural skill (which readers will remember from the earlier books - and the one element of Cotterill's work that some of his admirers have an ambiguous attitude towards). What Siri uncovers is a very rich brew of mysteries.

This is almost as entertaining as the previous novels in the series; Cotterill's worthy protagonist is as intriguing as ever, as he tackles both government indifference and nasty killers. And it's hard to believe that even a more serious book on this subject could conjure up the country of Laos -- in all its beauty and corruption -- as strikingly as Cotterill does here. --Barry Forshaw.

Genre: Mystery

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