First Sentence: You know?
Dr. Siri, the nearly 80 year old corner of Laos, wants to retire and spend some time with his wife before he dies; a death predicted by the local transvestite fortuneteller. Yet it agrees to one last job. Ten years earlier, during the Vietnam War, a US fighter pilot went down in the jungle. A search party of Americans and Laotian scientists and high-level politicians set out to find the pilots remains. They don’t expect to be trapped in a remote cabin due to smoke. Even less, do they expect one of their party to die.
From the very beginning, it’s clear that this isn’t your usual mystery, unless you read a lot of books where the protagonist embodies a centuries-old shaman and a transvestite fortune teller are among the charters. But the wonderfully quirky cast of characters is only one thing that makes this book a delight to read. However, one thing devotedly to be wished, would be a cast of characters at the beginning of the book, as it did become confusing at times.
Excellent descriptions; “But the setting was idyllic. It wasn’t yet 10:00 A.M. and not all the mist had burned away from the surrounding mountains. The sun was still a fuzzy egg yolk behind a lace curtain. The air was fresh and tingled the back of Siri’s throat. The sound of running stream water provided the soundtrack. The second hands on the watches on the wrists of the Americans began to crawl more slowly around the faces. Time had altered.”
The book is filled with humor, but there’s pathos as well. We’re presented with a country subjected to war, and a description of a village which has lost an “entire generation of able-bodied young men.” Tucked into this story is the remarkable story of what happened to the people of this area. The title is explained by a tradition of the farming people in this area. However, one also learns about the various ways in which marijuana can be used.
Some may describe this series as being light and, granted, there is a lot of humor both in the characters and the events. However, there is a deeper layer that, when looked for, provides a real grounding to the story.
“Slash and Burn” is not my favorite of the series, but it’s still a really good read. There is a surprising twist and motive, but one that makes perfect sense in the end. Be assured, however, that Dr. Siri and his crew remain firmly on my “must read” list.
SLASH AND BURN (Lic Invest-Dr. Siri Paiboun-Laos-Contemp) – G+
Cotterill, Colin – 8th in series
Soho Crime, 2011
on March 7, 2012
With "Slash and Burn," the eighth book in his Dr. Siri series, Cotterill entertains the reader with a quirky cast of characters most of which who have appeared in his previous books. From a clairvoyant transvestite to a journalist from Time Magazine and a drunken retired general, the story has humorous dialogue with off-the-wall situations thrown into the mystery.
In 1968, helicopter pilot Boyd Bowry went down with his aircraft in a fiery crash. A search party was unable to find the wreckage or any survivors of the crash so the occupants were listed as MIA and the search called off.
Ten years later, a U.S. delegation has decided to pick up the search through the Lao jungles for remains of Bowry. The infamous Dr. Siri Paiboun, a seventy-four year old national coroner, is recruited by the Ministry of Justice to head the search. Dr. Siri is due to retire shortly but reluctantly agrees on one more job to the dismay of his wife Daeng. Selecting his team after turning down the one suggested by his boss Judge Haeng, Siri joins the U.S. party in the search.
At the Friendship hotel, a run-down place where the teams are sequestered, one of the team is found dead in a compromising way. Due to the "slash and burn" process used to rejuvenate the forest, the team is grounded and unable to transport the body to the coroner leaving Dr. Siri and U.S. pathologist Dr. Yamaguchi to perform the autopsy at the hotel. Soon accidents begin to happen and bodies begin to pile up as Siri and his team uncover a conspiracy to cover up elicit activities by people in high places.
Colin Cotterill teacher, writer, and cartoonist continues to draw his readers into the escapades of Dr. Siri and hoping "Slash and Burn" won't be the last of the series.
Reviewed by Jodi Ann Hanson for Suspense Magazine
It's 1978 and Dr Siri Paiboun, the national coroner of Laos, is now 74 years old, and his retirement is less than two months away. But then a note from his boss, Judge Haeng summons him to the Ministry of Justice, and one last job.
`Trust me - nothing can go wrong this time.'
Dr Siri is to accompany a joint Lao- American team into a remote area of Laos to examine what might the remains of a downed US airman and his helicopter missing since August 1968. It's a five day mission and Dr Siri's presence has been requested by the Americans. Dr Siri negotiates, and agrees to accompany the mission provided that he is accompanied by his wife Madame Daeng, his mortuary staff Nurse Dtui and Mr Gueng, and his friends Phosy and Civilai. Readers familiar with the series (this is the eighth book) will recognise each of these characters.
`But the nice thing about facts is that you can toss them in here and there merely to win arguments. It doesn't matter if they're accurate.'
Dr Siri quickly realises that nothing is really as it seems. The reader has some clues about the possible complexity of the mission based on the prologue (from the point of view of Boyd Bowry, the missing pilot) and some mysterious events in the Philippines. American politicians have their own reasons for searching, and while the Lao politicians are cooperating for political reasons, they are most definitely not speaking the same language. And when a member of the expedition is found dead at the Friendship Hotel, Dr Siri is determined to uncover the truth. Auntie Bpoo, the clairvoyant transvestite, is also part of the expedition and has foretold Dr Siri's death. Will it be on this expedition? Will it be before Dr Siri finishes this case?
`This is another fine mess you've gotten us into, Dr Siri.'
Madame Haeng's cooking skills come in very handy, and Mr Gueng becomes a bona fide hero. And throughout the story Judge Haeng reminds us of the multiple attributes of a good communist:
`A good communist does not shake his comrade by the hand and stab him in the back at the same time.'
`A good communist is like a tree. He stands firm but knows how to bend in a strong wind. He is fertile but gladly gives up his nuts to less fortunate creatures.'
I enjoyed this novel: will be the last in this series? I'm looking forward to the second book in Mr Cotterill's new series (featuring Jimm Juree) (`Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach') is due to be published shortly.