The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

I read this novel back in 2008, and have read each of the novels in the series so far published. Now that the books are available through, I’ve posted my review there.  Highly recommended.

The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

`I’ve never done an autopsy in my life.’

Dr Siri Paiboun is a surgeon in his seventies and is keen to retire. The People’s Democratic Republic of Laos has a different view:

`Of course, Comrade Siri, we have to have a coroner because, as you well know, any organised socialist system must be accountable to its brothers and sisters. Revolutionary consciousness is maintained beneath the brilliance of the beam from the socialist lighthouse. But the people have a right to see the lighthouse keeper’s clean underwear drying on the rocks.’

And so it is that without any formal training, Dr Siri becomes the Chief Coroner of Laos. What may have been a routine existence of making do with scarce supplies and managing the officious requirements of bureaucracy becomes rather more complicated when a senior official’s wife turns up dead and the bodies of Vietnamese soldiers start surfacing in a Laotian lake. Who is covering up what, and why? Could these deaths be linked in some way?

This is a delightful novel. It combines mystery, humour and wonderfully subtle observational wit about the ways in which people rebel against authority in order to assert their individuality. Dr Siri himself is as fascinating as the cases he is solving, and this novel is a splendid gallimaufry of people, situations and circumstances. There may even be some red herrings to identify.

If you like mystery with elements of mayhem, then you may well enjoy this novel. This is the first of a series featuring Dr Siri Paiboun, and it is well worth reading them in order.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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