DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED - Colin Cotterill
If you haven't followed the adventures of Dr Siri, his nurse Dtui and his morgue assistant Mr Geung, then you're really missing out. In DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED, Dr Siri and Dtui are sent into the mountains to investigate the mummified body of a man found buried under a concrete path at the mountain hide-out of the President of the People's Republic of Laos. The investigation has a certain level of sensitivity because of where the body was found needless to say. Mr Geung remains in Vientiane to look after the morgue and he takes his responsibilities very seriously.
Cuban black magic has come to the Laos mountains courtesy of a range of orderlies and other medical staff that regularly came to Laos to help out, particularly during the war. A Cuban doctor is still working in the area - somebody that Siri has met before, and with whom he shares a very cordial relationship despite the total lack of a shared common language. Fortunately Dtui knows a little English from her own studying and she can act as a an interpreter this time as both she and Siri try to understand what a Cuban orderly is being buried under the path of the President. Along the way Dtui finds herself with an admirer, although his admiration for the rules of the Party seem to outweigh his admiration for Dtui. Meanwhile in Vientiane officialdom has decided that Mr Geung is a problem and he finds himself removed forcibly from the morgue and transported miles and miles away. Nobody in officialdom quite understands how important his job and his duty is to Mr Geung though, and he simply walks away from the convoy transporting him and continues walking - back to his morgue.
DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED is a fabulous entrant in this series of books for a whole heap of different reasons. Firstly, Dr Siri is in touch with the spirits, and the spirits regularly talk to him. They send him cryptic messages, they encourage him, they steer him in the direction he needs to go. And in this book, they take him dancing. You're going to have to accept that the belief in the spirit world is as real to Dr Siri as it undoubtedly is to the Laos people. It's a part of who he is, and in DISCO in particular it seems that this relationship is smoother, less remarkable - it just is. Dtui is as strong a character - she is a good, caring nurse, implacable in a crisis and not just the sidekick of Dr Siri. Comrade Lit would have done better if his admiration had expanded to some understanding of Dtui. Last, but definitely not least, Mr Geung is magnificent. His sense of duty prompts him to undertake a journey that many people would cringe from. His Downs Syndrome is beautifully and sympathetically addressed by the author - and the reactions of other countrymen, verbally not very politically correct maybe, but in kindness and their total lack of restrictions - it just lets Mr Geung soar. There are some beautiful touches in his story such as the bandit who solves the problem of knowing where the sun should be; the final moments that he spends with his father.
Text have previously released The Coroner's Lunch and Thirty-Three Teeth in this series, it would probably help if you had at least read The Coroner's Lunch to get a clearer idea of Dr Siri's background, but really start anywhere, accept the fantastical and just get to know these fabulous characters.
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.
Questions Siri has to answer: What is a Cuban black magic cult doing in the mountains of Laos? Does the handsome officer have the hots for his assistant Nurse Dtui? Why does an infernal disco start up each night just as he begins to nod off? And why, why do the spirits insist on talking to him?