The Dr Siri series has probably got to the stage where new readers will have that odd feeling - you know the one - when you walk into a theme party with no idea what the theme is. Or who most of the people at the bar are....
For fans of the series, there's absolutely nothing unexpected about SLASH AND BURN. It's perfectly understandable that Dr Siri, along with his wife, his nurse and his morgue attendant would all end up somewhere up country looking for a MIA American helicopter pilot. It's no surprise whatsoever that the Laotian team with them includes some of his oldest friends as well as a translating, transvestite fortune teller who, amongst other things, is firmly predicting Dr Siri's death. It goes without saying that the team includes a number of rather colourful American's including a dodgy senator and a military expert with a murky past. It's expected that somebody will end up dead and Dr Siri and his nearest and dearest will have to pull out the stops to solve the crime and survive themselves.
One of the great treats of this series is the wonderful celebratory sense of place and eccentricity of most of the characters, even Dr Siri, who is wise, and quietly all-seeing but definitely an individual. Everyone around Dr Siri is affected by the same glorious unpredictability, and everyone plays their part in solving the mystery of not just the more recent murder, but the crash and disappearance of one particular helicopter pilot.
Built into the madness there are often more serious aspects being explored, and SLASH AND BURN is no different. In this case there are a number of issues being touched on including the dreadful carpet bombing of Laos in the Vietnam war era, the discovery of gold around the same time, and the legacy that left behind. Most interesting, are some rather pointed observations about the American political system, and obviously the legacy that the war has left on the landscape, and in the villages of Laos as well as the minds of the citizens. As always whenever there are more pointed observations being made, Cotterill balances that out with some funny, poignant and beautiful moments.
SLASH AND BURN is the 8th in the Dr Siri series, and it seems the last. It's unbelievably sad to think we've finally come to the end of this journey, as it's been an absolute joy. I think this will be a series I'll re-read for many years to come.