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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Madame Daeng Wows Me in Colin Cotterill's Latest Dr. Siri Novel

I belong to a F2F mystery group that meets in a local independent bookstore.  Sometimes this group introduces me to a mystery series that becomes a must read for me.  Since I have a taste for the unusual, this doesn't happen very often. The group tends to select fairly standard police procedurals.  So I didn't expect much from a book with a title like The Coroner's Lunch. At least I didn't until I discovered that the book takes place in Laos, that Dr. Siri, the coroner central character, is quite unique, and that supernatural events have an affinity for him.  His staff and coterie of friends are also very memorable.  I read every single one and continued to love the characters even though the plots in the succeeding volumes didn't meet my expectations. This brings me to the most recent title in the series, The Woman Who Wouldn't Die.


 The greatest strength of this book is the excerpts from Madame Daeng's memoirs.  I enjoyed learning about the role she played in the history of  Laos.  I discovered  from these memoirs that the French created Lao refugee camps to cultivate Lao hostility toward the Thai, but this tactic backfired on them.  Instead an anti-French Lao independence movement  emerged from the camps called Lao Issara.  Lao Issara, which was not Communist, actually became the governing faction of Laos in 1945.  The Wikipedia article to which I've linked summarizes the reasons why Lao Issara didn't remain in power. 

This series has been a pretty wild ride especially when it comes to the paranormal, but in this book the mystery's solution can be arrived at by employing the rather mundane Occam's Razor. (The simplest explanation is the one that will turn out to be true. ) This is a principle of logical reasoning that I would never have thought had any place in Dr. Siri's  world  where the improbable  is almost to be expected.  For me, it's a disappointment that a case that seems so intriguing should be resolved in such an ordinary way.  There is also some unbearable cutesiness toward the end.  So aside from Madame Daeng's memoirs, this book was disappointing as a whole.

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