Dr Siri Paiboun did not wish to be state coroner for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, but he didn’t exactly get a choice. At 72 years old and with no training, he isn’t the ideal candidate – but he’s the best they’ve got. Well – he’s the only one they’ve got, being the last doctor left in Laos.
It’s all going according to plan until the wife of a Party leader is wheeled in and Siri suspects something is up. Then, Vietnamese bodies have been found, tortured, in the lake, and Siri has to keep his wits about him if wants to both survive and discover what exactly is going on.
The Coroner’s Lunch is the first adult mystery/crime novel I have read, and I really enjoyed it. It’s funny, witty and, obviously, mysterious.
I grew to love the main character, Siri. He is brilliant: clever, talented and funny. And he is experienced, which is what makes the character so well suited to the plot, even if he doesn’t know everything, and thereby discovers it along with the readers. Cotterill has basically created one of the most ideal characters I’ve ever seen for the plot; as opposed to a character who was bent to fit the plot, it’s as if they worked together, which is something you don’t always see.
I loved the side characters as well, from Crazy Rajid to Mr Geung to Dtui. They were all very different but complementary, like the complementary colours in a colour wheel – totally different but somehow go together.
The plot was good, but I did get a little confused as the array of characters was so wide (although this is generally typical for a mystery) and they had rather similar-sounding names, almost all starting with Comrade of Commander. The only ones with unique names were the ones which were central to the plot: Siri, Civilai, Geung and Dtui. I did, however, enjoy the mystery and the crimes, even if it was a bit gross.
Something I didn’t expect in this novel was the large emphasis on the supernatural. Still, I felt this really helped in the novel and I really enjoyed it, even if it did creep me out a bit.
Finally, the writing style, which, although confusing in some places, had the perfect persona. The novel is told from Siri’s point of view, primarily, and Cotterill uses other character’s voices sparingly, only when they are needed. And, by the way, when I say “confusing” I mean “when you read back over the paragraph you realise and it’s great”. Also, it was really funny in places. Example: ‘It was after three, and Siri had been missing for over five hours… The staff consensus was that he was now in serious shit.’(I found it funny, anyway, especially with the scenario: a 72 year old investigating a murder is in trouble because he went missing. Irony? Is that you?)
I would definitely recommend this book for older readers, not so much younger ones (I don’t know why, but I always imagine kids reading this…). It’s the first in a series, and, I have to warn you: FINISHES ON A CLIFFHANGER OH YES (OH NO). (I was, admittedly, rather annoyed by that and need the next one, ASAP.) But yes ,a very enjoyable read, and I will be reading the next.
TITLE: The Coroner’s Lunch
AUTHOR: Colin Cotterill
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2007
NUMBER OF PAGES: 271
PRICE: £12.99 (hardback)
PERSONAL SOURCE: Borrowed from library