Synopses & Reviews
A blind retired dentist has been run down by a logging truck on the street in Vientiane just opposite the post office. His body is duly delivered to the morgue of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the official and only coroner of Laos. At the age of seventy-four, Dr. Siri is too old to be in awe of the new communist bureaucrats for whom he now works. He identifies the corpse, helped by the letter in the man's pocket. But first he must decipher it; it is written in code and invisible ink. The dentist's widow explains that the enigmatic letters and numbers describe chess moves, but they are unlike any chess symbols Siri has previously encountered. With the help of his old friend, Civilai, now a senior member of the Laos politburo; Nurse Dtui ("Fatty"); Phosy, a police officer; and Aunt Bpoo, a transvestite fortune-teller, Dr. Siri solves the mystery of the note and foils a plot to overthrow the government of Laos.
"Set in 1970s Communist Laos, Cotterill's delightful fourth novel to feature Dr. Siri Paiboun, the Laotian national coroner and one of the more eccentric characters in crime fiction, and Paiboun's clever assistant, Nurse Dtui (after 2006's Disco for the Departed), nicely blends the supernatural, humor and intrigue. This time, their trials and tribulations begin with the death of Dr. Buagaew, a blind dentist hit by a truck. When blank papers are found on the dentist's body, Paiboun quickly discovers encoded writing in invisible ink. Aided by his friends, police officer Phosy and politburo member Civilai, Paiboun follows up on a number of clues and discovers that the code describes a series of chess moves. A trip to the southern Laotian city of Pakse draws him deeper into a complex political intrigue. Adding local color is Auntie Bpoo, a fortune-teller transvestite who predicts Paiboun will soon betray his country. This sometimes slapstick, sometimes serious, but always lively mystery is sure to bring the author many new readers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[E]verywhere Mr. Cotterill's characters go, they maintain a wry, seasoned, offhand style that has been the secret weapon of this unexpectedly blithe and charming series." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"A hero unlike any other." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Magically sublime." Entertainment Weekly
A blind man, a transvestite, and a Laotian shaman walk into a bar
About the Author
Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952. He has taught in Australia, the U.S., and Japan, and has lived in Thailand, on the Burmese border, and in Laos. He has worked for UNICEF and local non-governmental agencies to prevent child prostitution and to rehabilitate abused children. He lives in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand.