A mysterious skeleton, a controversial film project, local government corruption…who else could solve this puzzle but curmudgeonly coroner Dr. Siri?
Fresh from his misadventures at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow (The Rat Catchers Olympics, 2017, etc.), elderly instigator Dr. Siri Paiboun has an ambitious new project: an epic film based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He’s even managed to sneak a $15,000 camera back into repressive Laos. Chief Inspector Phosy of the Vientiane police thinks Siri has been smuggling in weapons but must proceed delicately, both because he’s only recently been promoted and because his wife, the acerbic and domineering Nurse Dtui, was Dr. Siri’s assistant during his tenure as the country’s coroner. Phosy instead confronts Siri’s pampered, high-maintenance wife, Madam Daeng, at her noodle shop. Dtui now works as a nursing instructor, but her experience and expertise are needed when a female skeleton is discovered at the base of the Anusawari Victory Arch, an event foreshadowed in the creepy opening chapter. Siri’s film project is sidelined while he assembles his “group of crime fighters” to unravel the mystery. Their probe takes them by turns to the airport, a nest of animal oppressors, and the chambers of a corrupt judge. Meantime, the film project crawls drolly along.
Cotterill’s long-running series, now on its 13th installment, runs on the chemistry of his quirky comic characters, who once again deliver delightfully. Tart chapter titles like “Enough Perverts to Keep Us All Busy” add another layer of ironic humor.