As I lay recuperating, I indulged myself by reading some books just for fun. There is usually a PURPOSE to my reading, but this time I wanted a good story with some entertaining characters, and I got it in Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill. This is part of the “Dr. Siri series” which includes nine books in all.
Dr. Siri is the wise-cracking Laotian septuagenarian national coroner of Laos. That’s funny already, right? He tracks down the causes of several deaths in this book, with the help of a posse of eccentric and lovable friends. The story ventures into Thailand, has Vietnamese overtones, and otherwise looks at the Southeast Asian countries we have come to know only through war. Cotterill lives in Thailand, and deftly embroiders local sayings onto his easygoing English, such as “An old Lao poet had once written that love was a sharpened spear that gouged out a man’s eyes,” and “he’s a sticky-rice policeman.” He immerses the reader in the weather, the geography, the food, the clothes, and all other aspects of the Laotian culture.
The mystery part of the story is deft and and engaging, often going off on political and social tangents. The politics are never far below the surface. Siri is a Laotian nationalist who picked the Communists, and now realizes that things haven’t improved all that much. Every time the political passions of Siri and his friends burst through it starts to rain, or they have to catch a plane, or it’s time to eat, and they all go back in their boxes again.
Of a lazy afternoon, you will enjoy the company of Siri and his friends.