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Best Entry to Date in a Wonderful Series
on 23 March 2008
All of Cotterhill's adventures featuring Laos' national (and only) coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun, are extremely enjoyable, but this fourth one might be the best so far. It's 1977, and the Pathet Lao are still struggling mightily to make the transition from jungle insurgents to ruling government. The previous three books all worked a bit of Laos' history into the stories, but here politics and history really propel the plot, and it works wonderfully.
The seemingly everyday death of a blind man who steps in the path of a truck with failed brakes leads Dr. Siri and his redoubtable assistants into the heart of a royalist plot to overthrow the wobbly new communist government. Throughout the series we've see Dr. Siri lamenting the haplessness of the regime he fought to bring to power. However, he did spend thirty years in the jungle with the Pathet Lao, losing his wife, and forsaking hope for a family -- so he'll be damned if he's going to let his former comrades become usurped so quickly. But proof of the plot is elusive, and as in his other adventures, Dr. Siri is forced to travel to unravel matters. This time he heads to the crumbling city of Pakse with his old politburo pal and lunch companion Civilai. Meanwhile, the delightful Nurse Dtui and the honorable cop Phosy head to a very different place to poke around on their own.
Slowly but surely, Dr. Siri & Co. find their way to the heart of the conspiracy, with some rather unexpected results. Despite the appearance of a transvestite fortune-teller, the story is a little more sedate than others in the series -- the supernatural elements that play a large role in previous books are much more subdued here. Instead, the sad realities of realpolitik drive the plot. Events end on a note of great hope and happiness, whetting the appetite for the next entry in a great series.