Somebody in Laos is wooing and wedding country girls - and then killing them on honeymoon and binding their bodies to trees. The horror of what this monster does to his victims leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Chief Coroner Dr Siri and his morgue team. Not ones to stand around tutting, they vow immediate revenge.
Dr Siri Paiboun, the spry seventy-three-year-old reluctant national coroner of Laos, is out of town when a booby-trapped corpse is delivered to the morgue in Vientiane. The lives of visting doctors, the morgue attendant, and Madame Daeng, Dr Siri's fiancée, are saved by the intervention of Nurse Dtui, the doctor's longtime assistant, but it is a near thing. Who is responsible for this outrage?
Three young Laotian women have died of fencing sword wounds. Each of them had studied abroad in an Eastern bloc country. Before he can complete his investigation, Dr. Siri is lured to Cambodia by a free all expenses paid trip. Accused of spying for the Vietnamese, he is imprisoned, beaten and threatened with death. The Khmer Rouge are relentless—it is touch and go for the dauntless, now seventy-four-year-old national—and only—coroner of Laos.
The once retired Siri Paiboun - now national coroner, confused psychic and disheartened communist - decamps from the steamy capital and heads north to examine two badly charred bodies. Siri's a busy man, dining with the deposed king, attending a shamans' conference and being rescued by the ghost of an elephant.
It's 1975 and Laos' new communist regime is having teething problems. Dr Siri Paiboun, a charming and crotchety retired surgeon is called back into harness as chief coroner, despite having no training for the post.
When the wife of a Party leader is wheeled into the morgue, eyebrows are raised. Then three more bodies are found - but these are Vietnamese soldiers, and Siri may have an international incident on his hands. Are the deaths linked?
It's the 1970s in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, and with the Communist bosses coming to town for a jamboree everything needs to be tidy. Which is why reluctant national coroner Dr Siri Paiboun finds himself in the mountains of Huaphan Province. Inconveniently, there's a mummified arm protruding from a concrete path.