THE CORONER'S LUNCH - Colin Cotterill

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

In 1975, and in the middle of Laos' new communist regime's teething problems, septuagenarian surgeon Dr Siri Paiboun finds himself dragged back to work. This time as the chief coroner, a post he has absolutely no training for and little or no equipment, staff, forensic support or resources of any kind.

When the wife of a Party leader dies suddenly and the bodies of three Vietnamese soldiers are discovered, seemingly tortured and thrown into a local reservoir, Siri uses a very strange combination of autopsy results and assistance from his friends (living and dead) to investigate.

Siri is the most engaging character. A communist for love (his now deceased wife convinced him that they should support the Revolution), a charming old reprobate by nature, he uses a combination of medical knowledge, instinct, charm and good old fashioned finagling to find the truth. Even the scenes where Siri is ably assisted by the spirit world seem to just fit in with the world that he inhabits.

The author has a wonderful sense of farce and he has created the character of Siri with a touch of the mystic and a healthy dollop of the human. The supporting cast are well drawn and there is a real sense of community with these characters. The dialogue is funny, the interaction between Siri and his workmates and friends open, irreverant in some places and lovingly real.

Despite the woo woo element, which can turn off some readers, this is a wonderful, original, unusual book filled with people that you just want to spend more time with. Thanks must go to Text for publishing this book in Australia, and hopefully they will continue with the next: Thirty-Three Teeth.

Incidentally - Colin's website is well worth a visit just to check out the fabulous cartoons:

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

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?

The plucky septaugenarian steps out of party line and, with the help of old friends, his staff, Hmong shamans and dream visits from the dead, he goes digging for answers.  Lucky for Siri the spirits are mostly on side.

Review THE CORONER'S LUNCH - Colin Cotterill
Karen Chisholm
Monday, October 1, 2007

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