Dr Siri’s as sharp as ever

2010-07-21 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Love Songs from a ­Shallow Grave – A Dr ­Siri Mystery

Colin Cotterill

Quercus

SKINNY sept­ua­genarian he may be, but Dr Siri Paiboun is as tough as biltong, wise as The Elders and as sharp as Sherlock.

Once again, the wily Siri is on top form with witticisms which result in hoots of laughter, anti-establishment gibes to crush the spirit of even the most patriotic citizen, and the keenest nose for sniffing out even the most obscure baddies (and the one in this book is pretty obscure).

Siri, an ageing pathologist living in Laos in the seventies, is called in to investigate the discoveries of the bodies of three young women, all slain by being pierced with thin fencing swords. (The cover of the book I read shows an attractive sosatie representation of the three dead but demure babes on one sword, but that’s not how it really happens.)

A suspect is soon unearthed and as the case is about to get underway, Siri is called to represent his country on a political nose-rubbing jaunt to Kampuchea.

And this is where curiosity killed the cat. Or did it? Siri fans will know that he just can’t leave well enough alone, and a new injustice overseas soon entangles him. But this time Siri comes undone. Will he triumph? Will he ever taste his lovely wife ­Daeng’s famous noodles again? And can he forgive his friend Civilai for deserting him in a country that is rife with danger?

Admittedly this adventure is a bit over the top, but we don’t read Siri for believable whodunnit crime ­stories; we read him because we genuinely like him and want to bask in the essence of his character, a ­hero with a humanistic bent, who has no pretensions and can give a heartfelt and well-deserved “up yours” to the government he voted in, but who has failed miserably on its promises to deliver. Some may find this particular theme more relevant than others.

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