Saturday, 7 December 2013

Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill

This is the third book featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun based in 1970s Laos. Dr. Siri is Seventy-Two and he is the national Coroner of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. He is called to look into a body found mummified in the concrete road in remote village in Huaphan province. Dr. Siri's assistant, Dtui accompanies him. Dr. Siri is not just a Coroner, but also the host of thousand year old spirit Yeh Ming, so others spirits make contact with him. Will they help him in this investigation? Who is the person mummified in concrete? Why happened to him? In this remote province, very very faraway from city somebody is playing American Disco Music in the middle of the night making sleep impossible for Dr.Siri. Who is playing this music and why? 

While there is general madcap feeling about the book, it also shows the Communists practices in late 1970s Laos. Dr.Siri believes that communism would do overall good to people if they came to it on their own accord rather than being coerced to it. Communism and Religion don't go together. We have here not just religion here but religious superstition too- Black Magic, shamans, sacrificial altars, women who give birth to apes and spirits that take hosts in other bodies. 

The mystery is interesting and I didn't guess who is responsible for all these problems. It is a very different kind of mystery and is fun. Now I think I have to read Alexander McCall Smith's African detective stories, as Colin Cotterill's books are compared to them. 

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