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The Coroner's Lunch (Dr Siri Paiboun Mystery 1) [Paperback]

Colin Cotterill
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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The Coroner's Lunch: A Dr Siri Murder Mystery (Dr Siri Paiboun Mystery 1) The Coroner's Lunch: A Dr Siri Murder Mystery (Dr Siri Paiboun Mystery 1) 4.5 out of 5 stars (25)
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Book Description

7 Dec 2007 Dr Siri Paiboun Mystery 1

Laos,1976. The monarchy has been deposed, the Communist Pathet Lao have taken over. Most of the educated class has fled, but Dr Siri Paiboun, a Paris-trained doctor remains. And so this 72-year-old physician is appointed state coroner, despite having no training, equipment, experience or even inclination for the job. But the job's not that bad and Siri quickly settles into a routine of studying outdated medical texts, scrounging scarce supplies, and circumnavigating bureaucratic red tape to arrive at justice. The fact that the recently departed are prone to pay Siri the odd, unwanted nocturnal visit turns out to be an added bonus in his new line of work. But when the wife of a party leader turns up dead and the bodies of tortured Vietnamese soldiers start bobbing to the surface of a Laotian lake, all eyes turn to Siri. Faced with official cover-ups and an emerging international crisis, the doctor enlists old friends, village shamans, forest spirits, dream visits from the dead - and even the occasional bit of medical deduction - to solve the crimes

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (7 Dec 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847241964
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847241962
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colin Cotterill is the author of the Dr. Siri series of novels. Born in London, he has taught in Australia, the USA and Japan and lived for many years in Laos where he worked for non-governmental social service organizations. He now writes full-time and lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Product Description


This series kickoff is an embarrassment of riches: Holmesian sleuthing, political satire and droll comic study of a prickly late bloomer - Kirkus Reviews

Cotterill has a wonderful sense of farce...a delightful book - Sydney Morning Herald

Cotterill's depiction of this exotic, troubled country is fascinating, and his light touch makes Siri, with his humanity and strange dreams, very appealing - The Guardian

The story is good, the characters interesting, the hero delightful and the setting fascinating: a find - The Literary Review

…witty novel sharply captures the confusion after the revolution, and the hero, at turns cynical and humane, is an absolute diamond - Daily Telegraph

From the Inside Flap

Despite a total lack of training, an utter dearth of experience and a complete absence of inclination, Dr Siri Paiboun has just been appointed state coroner for the Lao People's Democratic Republic. It's 1976, the royal family has been deposed, the professional classes have fled and the communists have taken over. And 72-year-old Siri - a communist for convenience (he embraced the Red Flag only as a prerequisite to embracing his dear but departed wife), and a wry old reprobate by nature - has got the coroner's job because he's the only doctor left in Laos. But when the wife of a Party leader is wheeled into the morgue and the bodies of tortured Vietnamese soldiers start bobbing to the surface of a Laotian lake, all eyes turn to the new coroner. Faced with official cover-ups and an emerging international crisis, Siri will be forced to enlist old friends, tribal shamans, forensic deduction, spiritual acumen and some good old-fashioned sleuthing before he can discover quite what's going on… Colin Cotterill's sparkling debut introduces the most engaging detective to grace the genre in years. Few - if any - characters in modern crime fiction can match the benign humour, the gentle wisdom and the sheer bloody-mindedness of Dr Siri Paiboun.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior Thriller with a Mystical Edge 5 Jun 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Coroner's lunch is an elegant thriller, packed with eccentric characters and colourful descriptions of the newly formed People's Democratic Republic of Laos. The country's sole surviving doctor is forced, at the age of seventy-two, to become the nation's Chief Coroner. Things start to become interesting for Dr Siri when somebody tampers with one of his bodies. There then ensues a intricate and involving mystery, as Dr Siri and his unlikely bunch of assistants try to determine what's been going on.

The strength of the novel lies in its central character's whimsical sense of humour. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments in the book. Vientiane (Laos' Capital) is lovingly recreated, as are the people of this sleepy country.

Cotterill's description of Sr Siri's amateurish autopsies were delightful and very cleverly worked out. There is some dabbling in the spirit world, which may deter hardcore fans of crime fiction, as these sections are somewhat less than plausible. For me though, this mystical touch worked, adding an entertaining extra dimension to what can be a derivative genre.

There will inevitably be comparisons with the 'Ladies Detective Agency' novels but I think this does Dr Siri and Colin Cotterill a disservice. In my opinion this novel is significantly better. The crime solving aspects of the Coroner's Lunch are far stronger and Cotterill's characters are more vivid and better rounded. People who enjoy reading McCall Smith, will undoubted find much to love about these books, as will anybody who has a passing interest in Sherlock Holmes style sleuthing. Dr Siri Paiboun is a welcome addition to the genre and I look forward to reading more of his exploits.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Dr Siri is a 72 year old communist & doctor whose dream is to retire once capitalism is overthrown, is instead forced into a new career as the National Coroner.
This book is set in 1976 Laos where all the rich, middle classes, proffessionals and just about anyone whose capable of it have sailed or swam across the mekong river to Thailand to get away from the communist regime who've taken over the country.
Dr Siri with his wonder nurse Dtui, Mr Geung the Morgue assistant, Comrade Civilai and various other fanastic characters have to solve the murder of a Comrades' wife, three bodies found in a resevoir, the unusual deaths of some soldiers. All the while Dr. Siri is finding that the ghosts of dead who he sees in his morgue each day are visiting him in his dreams at night; usually with some vague message.
This is as other reviewers have already stated a truely charming, witty, delightful book. It's extremely well written with all the characters being well developed and totally believable.
One of the best books I've read in years and as such I immediatley bought 33 teeth (highly recommended).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the world of Dr Siri Payboun 14 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first of a wonderful little series. They've been compared to the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency: they are much, much better! The author clearly knows Laos very well and loves it without being blind to its faults. He ventures into the byways of Lao life - belief in spirits, hill tribe life for example - that a casual visitor would not experience. The characters are quirky but ring true; the satire is gentle but telling.You don't have to know Laos to enjoy these books - he brings it alive very well. Read this one and you will be hooked.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear Dr, Siri 26 Jan 2008
What a lovely story, beautifully told. The No. 1 Ladies of the far east. I was delight to make the acquaintance of Siri, and hope to become firm friends in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could this be a new Precious? 15 Jan 2008
Other people have compared this to Alexander McCall Smith and Precious Mckenzie and they are right, it has that whimsy and wit observing a society and culture which is alien but making it understood.
This is better though, Agatha Raisin in Laos with a touch of the supernatural which never becomes unbelieveable
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read this year! 30 July 2007
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this - it was just fabulous! Immediately I was swept away to Laos and had fallen in love with not only Dr Siri, the reluctant Coroner, but the whole cast of characters. If you enjoy Alexander McCall Smith you will love this. Charming, funny, touching and completely absorbing, I can't wait for 33 Teeth. Don't get left behind in this new series, read this debut now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's quite difficult to pigeonhole The Coroner's Lunch, other than to say it's a crime novel set in Laos in 1976. It's too political to be a cozy, though it does have leanings that way; it has too much humour and comic charm for a noir or hardboiled; and it's more a cultural commentary than a police procedural. It's also very good. Cotterill's skill is manifold: the story being well paced and plotted, with a good balance between show and tell, giving enough but not too much back story, and it being peopled by a wonderfully depicted set of characters. Indeed, Dr Siri, Nurse Dtui and Mr Geung are all interesting folk that one is delighted to spend time with, and the supporting cast feel like `real' people rather than stock characters. There was, however, one thing that jarred a little, and it's taken a couple of days reflection to put my finger on it. The story has a dark side and should have had a lot of tension, and yet somehow it didn't. I think the comic charm and the warmth of Siri's personality seemed to dissipate any sense that he was in any real danger. In this sense, the story for all its twists and turns, lacked an edge. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable read and recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I bought this to introduce a friend to the Dr Siri series of books. They are now hooked on them too. The book is a strange mix of fictitious characters set in real places. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Louise
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy pathologist with a connection to the other side
Dr. Siri is Laos' only coroner, not through choice, but being the only doctor around, his "promotion" was unchallenged. Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2011 by soffitta1
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
The book was recommended to me and at first the title didn't interest me. But how wrong I was -it's a very good read. Read more
Published on 27 Mar 2011 by Book Worm
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful writing
nice to read such a well written and different take on the old mystery novel, the author knows his stuff, detailing Laos and Asia at that time beautifully, the books are funny,... Read more
Published on 22 Jun 2010 by Fantong
5.0 out of 5 stars The Coroner's Lunch
A great Novel- both for the lover of a detective story or for those who like things a little more esoteric - unputdownable!
Published on 18 Jun 2010 by Mr. J. E. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Fab books
I realy enjoyed this and the 2nd book. So much so that I immediately ordered 3 and 4 in the series. Read more
Published on 9 Jun 2010 by lisa arutura
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Series
One of the best things about these books is the real sense of place and the insight into Lao life and culture. Read more
Published on 13 May 2010 by Clockwatch
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique in style and talent
I've read the entire Dr. Siri Paiboun series to date (May 2010). I read the Coroner's Lunch three years ago sitting in the UCLA Oncology department waiting for my first... Read more
Published on 9 May 2010 by JC
4.0 out of 5 stars Cotterill is a wonderful discovery
First Sentence: Tran, Tran, and Hok broke through the heavy end-of-west-season clouds.

It is 1976 and one year after the Communist takeover of Laos. Dr. Read more
Published on 12 Mar 2010 by L. J. Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and full of humour
Set in the 1970's in Laos a little known country in South East Asia.

Dr Siri is the wonderfully sarcastic and witty aging coroner. Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2010 by Debbie
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