Sunday, 26 October 2008
OLD communists in the Laos of the 1970s are the unlikely heroes of Colin Cotterill's thrillers - and especially his hero, Siri.
Dr Siri Paiboun spent his youth fighting in the jungles, side-by-side with his wife, to free his country from French occupation.
By now he's in his mid-70s, a lonely widower, and in any civilised country he'd be settling into retirement with the comfort of a pension and a medical card.
No such luck for the aged revolutionary: he's national coroner, and uses his medical skills and his love of Maigret to investigate mysterious deaths.
One of Dr Siri's cases is the drowning of a kid from a fishing village - an ace swimmer, whose corpse is covered in mosquito bites and splinters above the waist, but not below.
The other is a blind semi-retired dentist (ow!) killed by a truck - after picking up a letter written in invisible ink.
Dr Siri and his friend Civilai, a top government cadre, go off together to investigate. They're friends even though Civilai is one of those who stole the governing of the country from the founding revolutionaries.
It's very funny - particularly when the two pals attend a Bruce Lee show re-voiced in Lao, where the audience rock with laughter as the evil capitalist somersaults backwards onto the roof, snarling "We slaves of the Western money culture will always prevail, you common coolie".
Very funny, and very political, and quite instructive.