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Thirty-Three Teeth
Dr. Siri Paiboun Book 2

by Colin Cotterill

      Dr. Siri Paiboun, "reluctant national coroner, confused psychic, disheartened communist" takes us back to mid 1970s Laos and a new array of puzzles with the second book in this series. Seventy something Dr Siri feels he really should be allowed to retire.  Instead, despite a complete lack of training and experience, he’s been appointed the new nation’s only coroner.  Fortunately, he’s a natural doctor with considerable reserves of charm, intelligence, energy and humor. He also has some helpful assistants, only two of whom are actually on the payroll.  The rest include a policeman and a politburo member, but also a variety of visitors no one else can see and vivid, strange dreams, whose presence offer silent clues to the various puzzles facing Dr Siri, once he can interpret them.

I usually completely avoid that sort of woo woo factor in a novel, but it works for me here, in part because Dr Siri himself is fairly skeptical rather than a true believer trying to sell me on it.  While his ghostly visitors and other manifestations genuinely fit in the story rather than seeming like decorations stuck on top. The setting may help make them easier to believe in too.

A bear has escaped from its display at a tourist hotel and women are turning up mauled to death. The connection seems obvious, but is it?  Why did a man apparently hurtle out a window at the Ministry of Sport, Information and Culture to his death? Was he pushed? Then why no signs of struggle? What is so important about two bodies in the north that Siri’s boss would order him to leave on a minute’s notice, with limousine and plane waiting?

The puzzles are real and the detection interesting to follow, but this is unquestionably a book and a series you read and enjoy for the characters first, followed by the exotic setting and the stories. Dr Siri is simply a delight, as are his friends and assistants. The woo woo factor is even more central to this story than the first book, which may indicate a trend that will cause some people problems—there’s definitely a need to suspend belief here. But I think the results are more than worth doing so.

Highly recommended.

The Book

August 1, 2006
Trade Paperback
Historical Mystery [1977 Laos]
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2009
© 2009