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Anarchy and Old Dogs (Dr. Siri Paiboun) [Paperback]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By L. J. Roberts TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
First Sentence: The post office box was eighteen across, twelve down, and it had a loop of wool around the door so Dr. Buagaew wouldn’t miss it.

A blind man, killed when hit by a bus, is carrying an envelope containing an apparently blank sheet of paper. Not only is it not blank, but it could have dire consequences for the country. Dr. Siri travels to a small village where a governor’s deputy died from electrocution in his bath. Was it assassination, suicide, accident or murder? A small boy has apparently drowned, but his body looks unusual. It is up to Siri, and his friends, to resolve these issues.

Anarchy and Old Dogs draws you in from its very compelling opening and never once do you think of stopping. His descriptions are poetic and evocative…”The drought had wrung every last tear of moisture from the sad earth.”

His characters are unique and charming. Dr. Siri, the 73-year-old coroner, imagines himself as Georges Simenon’s protagonist Inspector Maigret—and is occasionally referred to by others as “Inspector Migraine”—yet when he solves a case in very short order “…he was still a little upset that he hadn’t been given the opportunity to eliminate the suspects one by one through the magic of dactyloscopy.” Accompanying him on this venture are this friend Civilai and the faithful Nurse Dtui.

One thing that makes this book particularly interesting is that there is very little of the supernatural element, which was part of the previous books. There are fascinating descriptions of Siri’s dreams and the delightful character Auntie Bpoo, a transvestite fortune teller. Siri and Civilai, of whose background we finally learn, are much more introspective than in the past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Dogs and New Tricks Sept. 27 2008
By Dave and Joe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I started this series with this book, just picked it up from the display. I loved it, I only wish I'd started at the beginning. I've now got them all and working through them in order. Much better experience. I recommend this book highly but if you are looking for a series, rather than a book, it makes a lot more sense to start with "the Coroners Lunch".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Sept. 19 2007
Format:Hardcover
A witty and unusual series...You must read them all
Praise for Colin Cotterill !!!
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  44 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Say You Want a Revolution? Oct. 20 2007
By Gary Griffiths - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Anarchy and Old Dogs" is Colin Cotterill's fourth investigation of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the national coroner of Laos. As with the previous three, it is set in 1977, about two years after the revolution delivered Laos into Communist hands. The wily and wiry Dr. Siri was in his youth a revolutionary firebrand, a fierce supporter of the People's government and advocate for the disposal of an abusive royal regime. But now 73 years old, Paiboun would prefer retirement to sparing with government bureaucrats in his understaffed and under-budget forensic operation. Seems in actual practice, communism is not quite the utopia promised in the musings of Marx or Lenin, painfully evident in chronic shortages of even the most fundamental necessities at the fumblings of officials in a government where political connections trump competence.

This is a refreshing and unusual crime fiction series, and as "Anarchy" proves, the talented Cotterill gets better with every new installment. This time around, a blind dentist is run down on the streets of the Laotian capital city of Vientiane. What seems to be an unfortunate accident takes on much deeper and sinister undercurrents, leading Siri and long time friend and fellow revolutionary Civilai Songsawat into a complicated and dangerous trail of intrigue and counterrevolution. Filling in some of the history missing in his prior works, Cotterill spins a thoughtful and insightful portrait of the struggles and failures of the young socialist government, showing deep respect and empathy for the Laotian people without glorifying the communist government that turns out about as oppressive as their predecessors. Those familiar with the series will find Nurse Dtui back with a few surprises, and Siri less dependent on his unwelcome and unwanted supernatural abilities, relying instead on the corporeal to crack the case. Genuinely suspenseful and holding more than a few twists up his sleeve, both the author and his cagey coroner uncork an intelligent page-turner that will keep you thinking and waiting for Paiboun's next adventure.

From the start, Cotterill's magic lies in a unique main character set in an unfamiliar land in an interesting period of contemporary history. But as the series progresses, it is increasingly clear that there is more to Cotterill than gimmick, as the characters and the subject matter move into deeper, more poignant and serious waters, while maintaining the dry and cynical humor and refreshing story lines that have set this author well above the gun slinging, wise-cracking PI pack. If you haven't discovered Colin Cotterill and Dr. Siri Paiboun yet, you're missing a rare literary treat.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great late 1970s Laos mystery Aug. 7 2008
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In 1977 Vientiane a truck ran over blind dentist Dr. Buagaew, killing him instantly. Everyone who witnessed the tragedy assumes the late pedestrian obviously owed karmic debt so no tears were shed. As is the case in these types of vehicular deaths, the Laotian National Coroner septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun is directed to perform a cursory review. He and his capable assistant Nurse Dtui assume nothing of their inquiry even when they find an odd anomaly of blank papers on the victim.

Paiboun soon realizes the papers actually contain encoded notes written in invisible ink. He and Dtui with the assistance of his closest comrades Police Officer Phosy and Politburo member Civilai begin to find clues related to the secret writings that to their shock is simply moves in a game of chess that sends the coroner to the city of Pakse where he begins to piece the puzzle together of a plot to overthrow the Communist regime.

Combining humorous eccentric characters like a fortune telling transvestite Auntie Bpoo and the corpse as a practicing blind dentist inside a strong serious investigation, Colin Cotterill continues his great late 1970s Laos mystery series with another excellent entry. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the truck hits the dentist and never slows down until the final confrontation between anarchists and the old dogs like the coroner. Readers will appreciate Colin Cotterill's fine tale with newcomers seeking the backlist (see DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED, THE CORONER'S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH).

Harriet Klausner
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Siri Gets Real Aug. 7 2007
By Miran Ali - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In the fourth installment of this wonderful series, our intrepid, ghost seeing, haunted doctor has to deal with some real life political problems and has to make some difficult choices. It has all the humour we've come to expect and some delicious Lao food. If you're new to this series then please start with the first one, since there is some chronology. If you like mysteries set in languid exotic locales, at a time which is now gone, this is the book for you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best So Far in a Wonderful Series March 23 2008
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humor and character drive this outstanding series Sept. 25 2007
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With his accustomed wry humor and quircky Zen wisdom, Laos' national (and only) coroner, 73-year-old Dr. Siri Paibon, takes on what looks like a simple accident - blind dentist (retired) versus truck - and uncovers a plot which threatens to topple the government.

Not that even Siri thinks a change at the top would necessarily be a bad thing. It's 1977and the two-year-old communist Pathet Lao government has "adopted a policy of disguising its lack of ability by baffling the populace with red tape."

Nevertheless, it's the principle involved. He can't just let somebody steal the country after the Pathet Lao spent 30 years fighting for its independence. And he can't turn the whole mess over to the incompetent security forces. Luckily a deputy governor in Pakse - where the dentist's coded correspondence originated - electrocutes himself in the bath with a politically sensitive appliance and Siri is on his way.

As usual the independent-minded coroner gets plenty of help. This time his old friend and politburo member Civilai is at his side while Nurse Dtui (whose story takes an unexpected turn) and police officer Phosy team up to follow a tangential lead.

This character-driven series is not for action-suspense fans but for those who like their mysteries steeped in atmosphere, culture and history, for those who appreciate top-notch writing and clever humor, and for those who like their protagonists wise, witty and haunted by ancient spirits.

In this fourth outing, the spirits are fairly quiet, although, disturbingly for fans who would like to see the good doctor go on into his 80s at least, Siri has begun to find more savor in the spirit realm of his dreams than in daily life. But Siri still has fun ever tweaking the self-important and deflating the puffed-up. An outstanding entry in an outstanding series.
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