It’s Laos, 1976. Dr. Siri Paiboun thought he was going to be able to retire after the Communist takeover, but instead he is drafted into being the nation’s only coroner. A doctor, yes, but Siri has no training in autopsies, so he gets hold of a couple of textbooks and has his nurse/assistant/soon to be apprentice coroner Dtui hold them open in front of him as he follows the diagrams in them, scalpel in hand.
Things are pretty quiet as this first in series begins but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Two and then three bodies are found in a reservoir, soldiers start dying at a forest camp, and then someone starts shooting at Siri. He is indignant.
He’d been in battles, been shot at often enough. But assassination was a different matter altogether. It was personal and rude.
Many great characters herein, beginning with Siri himself and continuing with nurse Dtui, not-so-challenged Geung, the soon-to-be-set-straight Judge Haeng (love the name), Siri’s mad politburo fiend Civilai (love that name, too), and Inspector Phosy, who is more than the cop he says he is, and that’s just for starters. Put them all in a setting so fully realized you wrinkle your nose at the smell of Siri’s lab, throw about seventeen different plots their way with some really nice writing (see title of this post), and stand back. A fun read.