The Coroner's Lunch: Book summary and reviews of The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

The Coroner's Lunch

By Colin Cotterill

The Coroner's Lunch
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2004,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

Laos, 1972. The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Most of the educated class has fled, but Dr. Siri Paiboun, a Paris-trained doctor whose late wife had been an ardent Communist, remains. And so this 72-year-old physician is appointed state coroner, despite the fact that he has no training or even supplies to use in performing his new task. What he does have is curiosity and integrity. At his age he is not about to let a bunch of ignorant bureaucrats dictate to him.

One of his first cases involves three bodies recovered from a reservoir, but Dr. Siri establishes that the cause of death was not drowning. These men seem to have been electrocuted, perhaps tortured, and they also seem to be Vietnamese, which could have international repercussions. And then there is the inexplicable death of a Party bigwig’s equally important wife. She collapsed and died at a banquet. But Dr. Siri doesn’t think her death was from natural causes.

In the course of his investigations, Dr. Siri must travel to his birthplace, a Hmong village he has not visited for more than 60 years, where he makes a profound discovery, not only about the motive for several murders, but about himself.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. If Siri lives long enough, he'll make a wry, eccentric addition to the genre." - Booklist.

"The Coroner’s Lunch is marvelous. The setting may be unique in Western fiction, and the characters are unique to themselves. Sweet but not sappy, offbeat but not self-conscious about it, this book doesn’t so much pull you in as open a door and let you walk happily through. Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s books will love this one." - SJ Rozan, author of Absent Friends.

"Despite this minor detour into the implausible and a later, jarring change in viewpoint, this debut mystery, with its convincing and highly interesting portrayal of an exotic locale, marks the author as someone to watch." - Publishers Weekly.

"If Cotterill, a British social services worker who has lived in Laos, had done nothing more than treat us to Siri's views on the dramatic, even comic crises that mark periods of government upheaval, his debut mystery would still be fascinating. But the multiple cases spread out on Siri's examining table -- including the assassination of a delegation of visiting Vietnamese, the murder of a high-ranking party official's wife and the presence of spies on Siri's own turf -- are not cozy entertainments, but substantial crimes that take us into the thick of political intrigue." - The New York Times - Marilyn Stasio.

"This series kickoff is an embarrassment of riches: Holmesian sleuthing, political satire, and droll comic study of a prickly late bloomer." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Author Information

Colin Cotterill Author Biography

Photo: Jessica Cotterill

Colin Cotterill was born in London and taught in Australia, the U.S., Laos, and Japan. He works for UNICEF and local nongovernmental agencies to prevent child prostitution and to rehabilitate abused children. He and his wife live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he teaches at the university.

Cotterill's books include The Coroner’s Lunch, Thirty-Three Teeth, Disco for the Departed, Anarchy and Old Dogs, and Curse of the Pogo Stick, all featuring seventy-three year old Dr. Siri Paiboun, national coroner of Laos. The Dr. Siri series has received a Dilys Award win and a Barry Award nomination. Killed at the Whim of a Hat is the first book in the Jimm Juree Mystery series.

Link to Colin Cotterill's Website

Name Pronunciation
Colin Cotterill: COT-er-ill

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