2 November 2010

Review: ANARCHY and OLD DOGS, Colin Cotterill

Soho Press 2007
ISBN-13 978-1-56947-463-1
272 pages
Source: borrowed from my library
The image to the right comes from the author's own website.

How to describe Dr. Siri Paiboun?
A man who hosts the spirit of a thousand-year-ol Hmong shaman - a man who's being pursued by the malevolent spirits of the jungle - a man who is regularly visited by the ghosts of murder victims... a man who has no fewer than thirty-three teeth crammed together in his magical mouth, which positively proves his connections to the spirit world.
Even this snippet illustrates Colin Cotterill's quirky sense of humour. It also refers to incidents in earlier titles in this series.

Dr Siri Paiboun is the rather reluctant coroner for the whole of Laos, based in Vientiane. His investigation of the death of blind dentist Dr. Buagew leads to the discovery of a letter written in invisible ink in the dead man's jacket pocket. There's no mystery in how the old man was killed. He was killed by a runaway logging truck right in front of the post office. The mystery lies in the content of the letter: it appears to be in code. When the dead man's wife claims the code stands for chess moves, Siri's suspicions are raised.When decoded, the letter appears to be referring to a planned coup to take place in the South.

It is August 1977, Dr. Siri Paiboun is 73, and Laos has made little progress since the Pathet Lao came to power in 1975. Everything is tied up in red tape. Laos has recently signed an agreement of friendship and cooperation with the government of Vietnam. Down south a deputy governor seems to have managed to get himself electrocuted in his bathtub. Dr Siri must go south to sign the death certificate.

There's a lot more political overlay in ANARCHY and OLD DOGS than I remember in earlier novels. The revolution has not brought the enlightenment that Dr Siri and his comrades had envisaged. It is a disappointment that weighs heavy on his mind. And running alongside this theme are the coronial duties that Siri carries out, the murder mysteries he solves.

My rating: 4.3

If  ANARCHY and OLD DOGS sounds interesting to you, then I would recommend that, if you can, you read the  books in the series in order. Each builds on the last and they are sequential.

The Coroner's Lunch - Quercus (2007)
Thirty-Three Teeth - Quercus (2007)
Disco for the Departed - Quercus (2008)
Anarchy and Old Dogs - Quercus (2008)
Curse of the Pogo Stick - Quercus (2008)
The Merry Misogynist - Quercus (2009)
Love Songs from a Shallow Grave

In 2009 Colin Cotterill won the CWA Dagger in the Library.
In making the award to Colin, the judges said An unusual hero in an unusual setting. Quirky, funny and very appealing. His books are a truly beautiful read. 

Earlier reviews:

I read  ANARCHY and OLD DOGS as part of the 2010 Global Reading Reading Challenge.


smplcv said...
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Bernadette in Australia said...

I am slowly going through these one-by one as you suggest Kerrie. Am up to number three which I shall be reading soon.

kathy d. said...

Have you read any of Timothy Hallinan's books yet? If so, can you point me to review(s)?

Thanks much,
Kathy D.

Kerrie Smith said...

I need to read some more
Try Barbara Fister's site - ignore the Google ads that come up there


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