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  • Christopher G. Moore

Laotian Crime Fiction

Colin Cotterill has a crime fiction series set in Laos. I can recommend his Disco for the Departed.

The main continuing characters in the series are Dr. Siri Paiboun, the 73-year-old national coroner who has the ability to communicate with the spirit world. This gives, at times, a surreal spin to the crime story as the good doctor plugs into the world of the dead to find leads in his investigation of a double-murder. Dr. Siri’s companion is Nurse Dtui who dreams of a scholarship to the Soviet Union where she can continue her studies though it is reasonably clear that she will remain firmly planted in Laos. The last member of the trio is a morgue assistant Mr. Geung who is a low-grade moron (in the medical sense as opposed the usual run of the mill morons).

Mr. Geung shows himself a survivor in this book, trekking hundreds of kilometers after his detention by the authorities. The novel is set in the late 1970s with lots of insight into the political situation and the Laotian culture. The relationship between the North Vietnamese and their Laotian counterparts is closely observed and well rendered.

The basic premise of this crime novel is the search for the killer of two Cubans. There is a major political event to take place and it would be good to have the loose ends tied up before the big shots enter the stage. The Cubans were part of a detachment to support the communist revolution. They disappeared. Then a body is found. Unwinding their fate is left to the hands of Dr. Siri and Nurse Dtui, who uncover evidence of the killer from forensic work and clues in the spirit world.

Colin Cotterill’s books ought to have been on the New York Book list of international crime fiction. He has written an award winning series that is entertaining, with strong characters and insightfully developed. For the arm chair traveler who wishes to go to Laos the novel and series is highly recommended.

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