Friday, June 8, 2012

A Three Pack of Dr. Siri's

One of the highlights of my reading this year has been making the acquaintance of the fictional Dr. Siri Paiboun, in the ever entertaining series by Colin Cotterill.  During May's Murder and Mayhem reading  I managed to finish several, and since the settings and the characters are all alike, I'll just give you a brief glimpse of the plots so you won't get spoilers. With all of these,  I'm learning and laughing at the same time. These are not big on plot in that there are not a lot of twists and turns, but the characters and the setting more than make up for lack of great mystery. They remind me so much of the "1st Ladies' Detective Agency" series....great big wonderful characters, gorgeous history, culture, and geography lessons, some of the local religion thrown in, ghosts, love and did I mention laughter? 

Disco for the Departed  is #3 in this fabulous series. After Dr. Siri and his nurse Dtui get called to investigate a mummified arm protuding from some recently excavated concrete, there is a plenty of paranormal activity, which for a 73 year old who is channeling a 1000 year old shaman is to be expected.  In this one Dtui takes the lead and Cotterill establishes her as a major character in the series. A note: I am extremely claustrophobic. One evening, I was really tired from a long swim, but thought I could finish listening to this audio before I fell asleep. I climbed into bed with my MP3 attached to my ears around midnite. At five in the morning, I awoke with heart pounding, panting for breath, clammy skin, etc. I had just come out of a dream where I was enclosed in an underground theatre whose walls, ceilings and furnishings were all made of pale blue styrofoam board. No exits, no sound, no people, and no way out..... When later that morning I went back to see where I fell asleep, I discovered that poor Dr. Siri had found his "Disco for the Departed" in an underground cave!!!.....SCARY..........

The sixth book The Merry Misogynist is one of the best I've read so far.  It is a much more straightforward mystery involving a serial killer, a prime suspect, an established MO, and Dr. Siri off to find the killer before he can wreak more havoc. The good coroner's knowledge of the people throughout the country, his empathy and ability to understand different languages, dialects and customs helps him ferret out the truth.  Even through the cruelty of watching the next victim being set up, we are given amusing, entertaining dialogue that is side-splitting funny as Siri and his wife Daeng go crawling through the underbrush for instance in hot pursuit of the killer.  Cotterill gives us a surprise ending to resolve the mystery but it's the characters we come away remembering.

Love Songs from a Shallow Grave, #7 in the series, was a bit harder to follow.  The book opens with Dr. Siri manacled to a lead pipe in some sort of tortuous prison setting.  It took me a while to figure out whether the author was giving us a flashback, or whether Siri was channeling again. It evolves into an exposè of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge as Siri investigates the deaths of three young women, each skewered by a fencing epèe.  Again his wife Daeng and Nurse Dtui fill the roles of side-kicks helping uncover and bring the perpetrator to justice.  A bit darker than the previous in the series, but still satisfying.

Dr. Siri Paiboun Mysteries
by Colin Coterrill
Soho Press
audio narrated by Clive Chafer
source: public library


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