In Cotterill’s excellent 13th mystery, set sometime after 1980 in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos (after 2017’s The Rat Catcher’s Olympics), Dr. Siri Pauboun, the country’s national coroner, and his friend Chief Insp. Phosy Vongvichai, who’s a rare honest cop, have a grisly murder to solve. A night patrol has found a skeleton at the base of the Anusawari Victory Arch belonging to a woman who was apparently eaten by animals, possibly while she was still alive. The sensitive inquiry implicates a powerful official, placing Phosy’s career and life at risk. The crime may also be connected with illegal animal trafficking. A subplot involving Siri’s plans to produce a film based on War and Peace—and his navigating of the bureaucracy to get the project green-lit—provides comic relief from what would otherwise be a grim tale. Wry prose (“Life sped by in Vientiane like a Volkswagen van on blocks”) also lightens the mood. The eccentric Siri, who’s possessed by spirits (including those of a dog, his dead mother, and a transvestite fortune-teller), continues to stand out as a unique and endearing series sleuth. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/11/2018 Release date: 08/14/2018 Genre: Fiction
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