Title: The Coroner's Lunch
Author: Colin Cotterill
Publisher: Text Publishing
Edition released: 2006
ISBN: 1-921145-18-8
Classification: Crime
287 pages
Review by: Karen Chisholm

In the lead-up to the Australian release of Colin Cotterill's second book, Thirty Three Teeth, Text Publishing kindly sent me a copy of the charming THE CORONER'S LUNCH. This is the first book in the series featuring septuagenarian and reluctant Laos Chief Coroner Dr Siri Paiboun.

In 1975, and in the middle of Laos' new communist regime's teething problems, surgeon Dr Siri Paiboun finds himself dragged back to work. This time as the chief coroner, a post he has absolutely no training for and little or no equipment, staff, forensic support or resources of any kind.

When the wife of a Party leader dies suddenly and the bodies of three Vietnamese soldiers are discovered, seemingly tortured and thrown into a local reservoir, Siri uses a very strange combination of autopsy results and assistance from his friends (living and dead) to investigate.

Siri is the most engaging character. A communist for love (his now deceased wife convinced him that they should support the Revolution), a charming old reprobate by nature, he uses a combination of medical knowledge, instinct, charm and good old fashioned finagling to find the truth. Even the scenes where Siri is ably assisted by the spirit world seem to just fit in with the world that he inhabits.

The author has a wonderful sense of farce and he has created the character of Siri with a touch of the mystic and a healthy dollop of the human. The supporting cast are well drawn and there is a real sense of community with these characters. The dialogue is funny, the interaction between Siri and his workmates and friends open, irreverent in some places and lovingly real.

Despite the woo woo element, which can turn off some readers, this is a wonderful, original, unusual book filled with people that you just want to spend more time with.

Incidentally - Colin's website is well worth a visit just to check out the fabulous cartoons: http://www.colincotterill.com/

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