cover image Slash and Burn

Slash and Burn

Colin Cotterill. Soho Crime, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61695-116-0

Set in the summer of 1978, Cotterill’s outstanding eighth mystery starring Laotian coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun (after 2010’s Love Songs from a Shallow Grave) promises to be the series’ last. The 74-year-old Paiboun hopes to stay out of trouble until he retires in a couple of months, but a high-profile inquiry into the fate of a U.S. airman, Capt. Boyd Bowry, who disappeared a decade earlier, ensures otherwise. Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, accompany a delegation that includes Americans to the region where Bowry’s helicopter allegedly crashed. Murder follows the mission, giving Paiboun one last case to solve. The legitimate fair-play puzzle provides the stage for the book’s captivating lead, who in one instance uses a clever ruse to cut down on the vast number of false claims of Laotians to be in possession of human remains that could be MIAs sought by foreigners. The author deftly inserts humor into what could easily have been an unrelentingly grim plot line. (Dec.)