As his treasured retirement looms, can the curmudgeonly coroner tread lightly enough to endure through one last job that has highly sensitive political aspects?
Two provocative prologues kick off Dr. Siri Paiboun's eighth, and perhaps final, adventure. In August, 1968, two American soldiers see a helicopter explode in the air. A few years later, Siri and his wife Madame Daeng sit on a bed staring at a corpse that hangs from a door handle. "Another fine mess you've gotten us into," she declares. Flashback five weeks: Laotian national coroner Dr. Siri, almost 80, is finally ready to retire. His notice has been accepted, and he's said his goodbyes to his loopy sidekicks, Nurse Dtui and lab assistant Geung Watajak. Maybe it's a softening heart that causes Siri to accept a tough final job without his usual complaints. His team, which also includes Dtui's husband Phosy, ventures north to Vientiane to join a search party for American soldiers' bodies, a situation the reader gets an advance glimpse of in short, elliptical chapters. An impossibly perky guide named Peach is intended to monitor the team, but she's overmatched and has a tendency to tipple. Rugged terrain and dour, rainy weather are the least of the problems. The Americans seek to control both Siri's probe and the flow of information. But the hanging corpse and a shooting victim once again press Siri and company into action as sleuths, leaving Phosy taken aback by his wife's assertiveness.
The most entertaining case for Siri (Love Songs from a Shallow Grave, 2010, etc.) in years. Now that Nurse Dtui has found her voice, perhaps a spinoff?