‘Life sped by in Vientiane like a Volkswagen van on blocks.’
Dr Siri Paiboun, the former national coroner of Laos, and his friend Civilai want to make a movie. They have a film camera, which they’ve managed to purchase and smuggle into the country, and they have a plan. But there are two problems: the first is learning how to operate the camera, the second is obtaining script approval from the Ministry of Culture.
‘Every elderly person deserved a period of insanity to combat the boredom of decay.’
But things suddenly get complicated (they always do in a Dr Siri novel). A woman’s skeleton is found in a public place: who put it there, and how did the woman die?
Inspector Phosy investigates. Nurse Dtui helps, and so does Dr Siri. They establish quickly that the woman’s death was comparatively recent, and it seems that small animals have been gnawing at her bones. Their search for more information leads them to uncover illegal animal trafficking and corruption.
‘We only blackmail you if we think you’re wandering off the path of righteousness and into the brambles of evil.’
Everyone gets involved: Madame Daeng, Mr Geung and his girlfriend, and many of those who frequent Madame Daeng’s noodle shop. Dr Siri infrequently (but annoyingly) vanishes when his spirits take over. It takes him a little while to understand the message(s) being delivered, but fortunately he gets there eventually. Just as well, because Inspector Phosy is charged with corruption and he needs all the help he can get.
This is the thirteenth instalment in the Dr Siri Paiboun series, and while I didn’t enjoy this one as much as most of the others, the series is worth reading (in order, because character development and backstory are important).
Mr Cotterill tackles the uncomfortable but important issues of animal and people trafficking in this novel. But the last word really belongs to Mr Geung:
‘… wish this day, is that we all stop comparing the size of our brains and learn to see the size of each other’s hearts.’ (Well said, Mr Geung!)
I now have the fourteenth book in the series to read.