FFB: The Coroner’s Lunch

this is the 101st in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill, © 2004, Soho Crime, 2004 trade paper – first mystery novel featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun

the-coroners-lunchIn a review written several years ago for my print mystery publication, I said “I like that short story collections allow me to read authors who are new to me.” In a collection I’d just read there was a story by Colin Cotterill. I liked it so I decided to find the first novel in the series, which I did.

This is the book. I found right away that I like Cotterill’s writing and the character of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the reluctant 72-year-old Laotian national coroner.

Dr. 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. Instead he settles into a routine of studying outdated medical texts and scrounging scarce supplies to perform the occasional cursory examination, meanwhile making witty observations about the bumbling new regime to his oddball assistants. Then 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, and all eyes turn to Siri. Faced with possible murder and a political cover-up which could escalate into an  international crisis, the doctor enlists old friends, dream visits from the dead and the occasional bit of medical deduction to solve the crimes.

It took me only a few pages to be intrigued by Dr. Siri Paiboun, a wonderful character. I was also soon caught up by the story. This is a delightful mystery with an intriguing cast of characters. If you haven’t tried Cotterill yet, delay no longer. The second book, the next in the series, is The Thirty-Three Teeth.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise

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9 Responses to FFB: The Coroner’s Lunch

  1. Your review put THE CORONER’S LUNCH on my watch list. If I see a copy, I’m picking it up. My Read Real Soon book stack is now taller than I am so I have to chip away at it first.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Definitely. Dr. Siri and his circle are wonderful characters who develop as the series goes on. Definitely one of my favorite current series.

  3. John says:

    Superior series. One of the most original written in the past decade or so. I don’t think of this as a forgotten book. It was something of a bestseller (at least in mystery bookstores) when it first came out and it was singled out by dozens of critics as one fo the best of that year.

    The addition of the supernatural elements in this series is also a big draw with me. THIRTY THREE TEETH is even better than this one, but not as bizarre as THE CURSE OF THE POGO STICK — the first book I read in the series and the one that sold me on the weirdness of Cotterill’s storytelling.

    I met Colin Cotterill at the St Louis Bouchercon last year. Though he can be very funny at times when speakling publicly, he also is rather rude and impatient with his fans when dealing with them one on one. He left a rather negative impression with me. It’s no wonder he rarely makes public appearances outside of his island home. But I’ll continue to read his books.

  4. cgramlich says:

    I use short story collections for the same reason.

  5. Richard says:

    George, I’m sure you’ll whittle it down to size in no time.

    Jeff, mine too.

  6. Richard says:

    John, I guess you’re right, this really isn’t very “forgotten” at all. Honestly, I just needed something for FFB today, and this was a handy review from a few years back, so… It is an excellent series. I’ve heard Cotterill can be brusk with fans, but at cons, so can many authors, I’ve found, even those who are nice people. I’ve sen – and I’m guessing you have too – how some fans can hound an author so usually I don’t blame them.

    Charles, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

  7. Jeff Meyerson says:

    When I got him to sign one of my books and told him how much I liked them he was quite polite, but I saw him on a panel and he was a bit rude (in the British and American sense).

  8. Carl V. says:

    I too like short story collections for that same reason. I’ve read many a novel because I got a taste of the author’s style in a short story or novella.

    This sounds so interesting largely because it is a character of an age and culture that is so far outside of what I normally read. And I’m such an addict of the mystery series that the BBC puts out that of course my first thought in reading your review is how much I’d like to see this series adapted for television.

  9. Tameka Mayer says:

    I love the Dr. Siri books. Who would have imagined that a hero would be a 75 year old coroner in 1978 communist Laos. But he is just wonderful. I also love all the side characters in these books. How wonderfully they are drawn and develop as the books evolve. Having said that, I hope I interest someone in reading these fine books. You really should read the others first, but in many ways, this could stand by itself. There appears to be a serial killer in Laos, killing women using epees, or fencing swords. He clearly knows fencing and is strong (a straight thrust through the heart). Dr. Siri, as coroner gets involved, along with the usual crew of police and friends. This book is darker than the others, as a side story (and how can this ever be a side story) involves flashes to what is clearly an imprisonment of Dr. Siri by the Khmer Rouge. As Dr. Siri learns the dark side of that awful time, the reader is appalled, along with him). So, the two questions are, will he survive? And will he solve the fencing murders? But more importantly, rumor has it that this might be the last book about Laos by the author. NOOOOO!

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