"Thirty-Three Teeth" continues the saga of Dr. Siri Paiboun who, well into his seventies, is more or less drafted to serve as the coroner of Laos. The first in the series, "The Coroner's Lunch," was, for me, the nicest surprise I had all last year (from a book, that is), and the new one is, if anything, even better.
What makes these books so wonderful? Well, practically everything. The characters are fresh, the writing is sharp and, in this age of bloat, kept refreshingly short. The setting is completely unexplored up until now, and in Cotterill's vision it's a comic-opera banana dictatorship run by incompetents whose only real motivation is to dig a protective moat around their own rear ends, a place where truth comes in a distant second to doctrine and expedience.
But what I like best is the way Cotterill interweaves into his mysteries the internal world of the Laotians, rich in both spirit and spirits. Dr. Siri -- not entirely to his pleasure -- has gained entry into the world of the dead, and his dreams are full of the people whose deaths he somewhat reluctantly investigates. This additional layer is never intrusive and never overdone. It gives us insight into a worldview that is very different that that of the West, one that is in some ways richer and more beautiful.
It wouldn't be fair to write even a few paragraphs about this book without saying that Cotterill is also very funny. From my perspective, this is the most delightful new series in several years. I ordered the new one, "Disco for the Departed," months before it came out, and it's currently sitting on my To Be Read shelf -- I keep putting it off because once I start it I'll read it in one sitting, and then it'll be over.
Give Colin Cotterill a try. I've bought several copies of the first two books to give away, but since I probably don't know you, you'll have to pay for your own.