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The Coroner's Lunch (Dr. Siri Paiboun #1)

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  5,431 ratings  ·  896 reviews
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill"A wonderfully fresh and exotic mystery."--The New York Times Book ReviewDr. Siri Paiboun, one of the last doctors left in Laos after the Communist takeover, has been drafted to be national coroner. He is untrained for the job, but this independent 72-year-old has an outstanding qualification for it: curiosity. And he doesn't mind incu ...more
Kindle Edition, 287 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by E-Reads, Ltd. (first published 2004)
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Apr 26, 2014 sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Southeast Asia and Character-Driven Mysteries
At 72, Dr. Siri yearns to drink coffee, tend his garden, and read his books. But instead of a pension and honorable retirement for this combat surgeon to the Pathet Lao, he is now, in 1976, the chief and only medical examiner in Laos– the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos– shortly after the communists seized power after a long cave-based insurgency that Siri helped. Now he will be cutting up bodies until the day he is ready to become one.

Dr. Siri’s unair-conditioned morgue is no better equip
Jan 21, 2013 Carol. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of gentle mysteries
Recommended to Carol. by: richard
It's a new genre--the magical mystery (and if you finished the sentence with "tour," stop reading and click here:

Dr. Siri, a member of the Communist Party for forty-seven years, has been made the first coroner in the new republic. We meet him sharing a case with a judge who has a talent for inappropriate mottos and is not "even bright enough for sarcasm." Dr. Siri, being twenty-two years past his normal lifespan, has reached a certain passivity in life that is about t
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
This review can now be seen on Shelf Indulgence!
I loved this one so much I immediately requested the next one in the series from my library, even though I've already got a large stack of books to read. The characters are well-developed and intriguing; especially the doctor and his unusual staff. I really enjoyed the supernatural element, too. Gosh, I seemed tongue-tied; unable to find the right words to describe this unique book. It was humorous without being silly, and uplifting without being preachy. A small page-turner; easily read in a da ...more

This novel is set in Laos in 1976, shortly after the communist group Pathet Lao took political power, abolished the monarchy and established the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The narrative centres on Dr Siri Paiboun, who joined the communists because of his love for a woman rather than because of political conviction, worked with the group during its long insurgency and, at the age of 72 and longing for a quite retirement, is given the job of being Laos’ chief - and only - coroner. Through h
Now here I was, ladies and gents, just snuggling down with a perfect cosy mystery, The Coroner's Lunch, and thinking there would be a few twists and turns, a little mayhem, and voila -- comfort delivered. But before I reached page 10, I was laughing out loud in sheer delicious enjoyment, and I knew that although I had come to the right place for a cosy feeling, I was going to get far more than I bargained for. In a good way.

Dr. Siri Paiboun is a brilliant anti-revolutionary revolutionary-cum-cor
First Sentence: Tran, Tran, and Hok broke through the heavy end-of-west-season clouds.

It is 1976 and one year after the Communist takeover of Laos. Dr. Siri Paiboun is 72-years old, a widower and ready to retire. Instead, he is appointed state coroner; in fact, he’s the only coroner in Laos and has three cases to deal with; the death of an important official’s wife, the discovery of bodies that could lead to an international incident between Laos and Vietnam, and uncovering the reason why the co
Great kickoff to the world of elderly coroner Siri Paiboun working within the contraints of communist Laos. Such a lovable old cuss and so crafty in manipulating the forces of the regime to achieve his own solutions for justice. The portrayal of personalities and daily life is more important than the drama behind his cases.
“Fascinating” is the best word that that I come up with. For a second adjective I would choose “original.” I really enjoyed this mystery and have already bought the second in the series.

Where to start? This book worked for me on so many levels.

Set in the 70’s (post-Vietnam) in communist Laos our protagonist is a coroner. Mainly he pronounces deaths as “accidental” for the authorities who are philosophically and politically opposed to any death being classified as a murder---for murder as we all
A wonderful tongue in cheek satire on the revolution in Laos, "The Coroner's Lunch" tells the tale of Dr. Siri Paiboun, unwillingly chosen to become coroner in the new communist state. The powers that be think he will be another incompetent cog in the machinery of the bureaucracy. What they do not realize is that this man in his 70's has a work ethic that demands he do his job properly despite lack of equipment and resources. How Dr. Paiboun goes about his job and solves the mysteries is both en ...more
Dana Stabenow
It's Laos, 1976. Dr. Siri Paiboun thought he was going to be able to retire after the Communist takeover, but instead he is drafted into being the nation's only coroner. A doctor, yes, but Siri has no training in autopsies, so he gets hold of a couple of textbooks and has his nurse/assistant/soon to be apprentice coroner Dtui hold them open in front of him as he follows the diagrams in them, scalpel in hand.

Things are pretty quiet as this first in series begins but it doesn't stay that way for l
It is so much more enjoyable to get the feel of a country, its culture and politics from the point of view of a citizen, rather than a politician or a newsperson! I am trusting that Dr. Siri (Laos) and his friends from other cultures (Thailand, Viet Nam, etc.) are good reflections of the citizenry. (I guess I’m putting my trust in Colin Cotterill also.)

That a morgue be can run by the cast of characters there is a remarkable feat to all outsiders, but the reader. I hope that we hear more about th
switterbug (Betsey)
Laos 1976. Dr. Siri Panboun, seventy-two years old and itching to retire, was essentially coerced into the appointment of national coroner after the Communist takeover. Prior to this, he knew nothing about autopsies. Siri was a general physician earning respect and warmth from his patients. He had never worked on cold, dead bodies. His predecessor had fled across the river to Thailand, leaving a gap in the state-controlled medical examiners office. Most of the professional classes have hightaile ...more
I had a hard time with the opening scene of this book. Such a hard time that, had I not committed myself to read it, I would have stopped right there and returned it to the library.

In the opening scene 3 or 4 (can't remember exactly as I've tried to scrub the scene from my mind) dead bodies are thrown out of an airplane into a lake. The bodies are tied to each other and to a large amount of ordnance. They fall through the clouds, slip into the lake, and settle to the bottom with little more than
Joyce Lagow
As a septuagenerian myself, I must say I was intrigued by the idea of a 72 year old Laotian physician, Dr. Siri Paiboun, as the protagonist in a police procedural series.

Set in Laos in 1976, less than a year after the Communist takeover of that country, Paiboun, as one of the last physicians left in the country, has been drafted to serves as the national (and only) coroner. Never mind that he knows absolutely nothing at all about forensic medicine--he’s done surgery, right, and what’s the differ
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I really enjoyed this book, which surprised me. I picked it up without really knowing what to expect, and when I read the first few pages I thought, No--this is not going to be my sort of thing, since "my sort of thing" tends to be prewar "cosies." Fortunately, I was wrong.
I grew up in sixties America, and the map of Viet Nam and environs was part of our lives--on television news twice a day, on the walls of friends' houses who had men in the service, at school. I can still draw the basic conto
Aug 21, 2008 Terence rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: My GoodReads' friend Marsha
Shelves: mysteries-noir
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

The setting is Laos just after the Pathet Lao seized power (c. 1975). Dr. Siri Paiboun is an old member of the Party dragooned into being the country's chief coronor because all the qualified candidates have fled. Untrained, nevertheless Siri sets out to learn the job and do the best job he can.

Cotterill writes with ease and engagingly and Siri is a very likable character (I can empathize with his phone phobia). I hope the author develops this into a continuing se
72-year-old physician Dr. Siri Paiboun joined the Laotian communist movement for love of his wife, 11 years dead. When the communists come to power, he is asked to be the country's head coroner -- in fact, its only coroner. Spirits of the people he dissects come to him, first in dreams and then in waking life. His loyal assistants in the morgue are Dtui, a smart-alecky young woman who wants to be the next coroner, and Mr. Geung, afflicted with mild Down's syndrome and gifted with a prodigious me ...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
Laos is a landlocked socialist republic in southeast Asia, bordering with the more dominant nations of China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The Coroner's Lunch is set in 1976, a year after the end of a long civil war that resulted in the Soviet-backed communist Pathet Lao coming to power. The protagonist is Siri Paiboun, a doctor and a widower who, rather than being able to enjoy a peaceful retirement at the age of 72, is made the country's only coroner. One of the many delights of this book a ...more
Sue Arnold
I'm so glad I stumbled upon this book -- why haven't I heard about it before? I'm very glad it's just the start of a series. The book is a "cozy mystery," which I guess means no blood, violence, not too scary (although there is a developing supernatural element and I'm very curious to see where the author takes it). I LOVE Dr. Siri, a 72 year-old, newly appointed coroner in Laos. Siri is none too happy about having to work so late in life. He would rather be retired and listen to broadcasts from ...more
Mal Warwick
You’ve never read a mystery novel anything like this.

It’s 1976 in Vientiane, Laos. The Pathet Lao Communist government is in power in an uneasy relationship with its patron, the Vietnam of Ho Chi Minh.

Dr. Siri Paiboun, a long-suffering, 72-year-0ld doctor who has spent much of his life in the jungle as a reluctant guerrilla has been unhappily appointed the national coroner and stationed at a dangerously understaffed and under-resourced hospital in Vientiane. Dr. Siri has a staff of two in the mo
This was a really good mystery story set in 1970’s Laos. I enjoy reading about places I’m unfamiliar with, because I learn just a little bit about the place and its history. The primary character Siri is an older doctor in his early 70’s who was hoping to retire once the revolution was won and communism was in control of Laos. Instead they made him Coroner, a job he knew nothing about. Once involved in an actual investigation however, he is fascinated and is invigorated at the new challenge.

Thank you Richard for this recommendation. It was delightful, quirky, colourful, entertaining, cleverly constructed and most thoughtful. I got up to chapter 2 and immediately bought the second in the series!
We are really close to Laos at the moment so it feels right.
My finger is itching to press the "buy now" button on my kindle for the third book...Dr Siri is going to be an unexpected expense on our Vietnam trip...
Nov 21, 2013 AC marked it as i-get-the-picture  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
The opening sections of this book really impressed - vivid and fresh writing... and the cover art on this series is wonderful. From there, however, it went downhill. When he started to see 'dead people' walking around the morgue and in his waking state, he lost me... I have another of his books lying around and may try that one someday -- maybe.
When I picked this one up at the library I thought: "Hmmm, I haven't ready any mystery thriller set in Asia this year. I hope it's good."

I read the first few pages and had quite a culture shock, totally different from what I expected, its set in the 1970s and the protagonist had in his 72th year not even used a phone once. Shocking. No internet. No mobile phones. Bad infrastructure. He doesn't even have the usual shiny gadgets you hear about a pathologist has to work with (whatever they are). It
Kelsey Hanson
This book started out really strong. I enjoyed the main character and his assistants. He was funny and I admired his crotchety "I'm old I can do what I want" attitude. It was also a very unique setting and I always enjoy reading a book with vivid descriptions. About halfway through the novel, the book veered into the mysticism realm with spirits and sudden language abilities and dreams. I didn't enjoy it as much then. I prefer mysteries that are rooted in logic. It seems like the investigator is ...more
I really enjoyed The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill (who also writes the most excellent Jimm Juree crime fiction/murder mysteries).
It is the autumn of 1976 in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos when we meet 72-year-old Dr. Siri Paiboun, the Paris-trained physician and recently-appointed (and very reluctant) chief coroner of the communist-controlled country.
The supporting cast of characters is very entertaining, too, including: Dtui, the homely but highly intelligent nurse (who eventu
I love good mysteries. And I loved the character Quincy. And I love the political science of Asia.

So a murder mystery, featuring a Laotian coroner, set just after the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic just about had me drooling.

I did like this book, and character of the coroner and the setting.

What I liked less well were the mystical/supernatural powers of the coroner. I can respect their inclusion from an inter-cultural communication perspective. But to me they detracted fro
Rob Kitchin
It’s quite difficult to pigeonhole The Coroner’s Lunch, other than to say it’s a crime novel set in Laos in 1976. It’s too political to be a cozy, though it does have leanings that way; it has too much humour and comic charm for a noir or hardboiled; and it’s more a cultural commentary than a police procedural. It’s also very good. Cotterill’s skill is manifold: the story being well paced and plotted, with a good balance between show and tell, giving enough but not too much back story, and it be ...more
To be honest, the 3 star rating is more likely the result of my lack of knowledge and slight laziness than because of the book itself. The Coroner's Lunch is set in the 1970's in Laos following political struggles that resulted in it becoming a communist country. My knowledge of history concerning Laos is practically nil. Furthermore, I do not know anything about the political interactions between Laos, Thailand, China, and Vietnam during the 70's. Therefore, at times I had some difficulty follo ...more
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Around the World ...: Ilona recommends: The Coroner's Lunch 2 20 Oct 17, 2011 06:08AM  
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Colin Cotterill was born in London and trained as a teacher and set off on a world tour that didn't ever come to an end. He worked as a Physical Education instructor in Israel, a primary school teacher in Australia, a counselor for educationally handicapped adults in the US, and a university lecturer in Japan. But the greater part of his latter years has been spent in Southeast Asia. Colin has tau ...more
More about Colin Cotterill...

Other Books in the Series

Dr. Siri Paiboun (10 books)
  • Thirty-Three Teeth (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #2)
  • Disco For The Departed (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #3)
  • Anarchy and Old Dogs (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #4)
  • Curse of the Pogo Stick (Dr. Siri Paiboun #5)
  • The Merry Misogynist (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #6)
  • Love Songs From A Shallow Grave (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #7)
  • Slash and Burn (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #8)
  • The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #9)
  • Six and a Half Deadly Sins
Thirty-Three Teeth (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #2) Disco For The Departed (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #3) Anarchy and Old Dogs (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #4) Curse of the Pogo Stick (Dr. Siri Paiboun #5) Killed at the Whim of a Hat (Jimm Juree #1)

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“He put his hand on his forehead and scoured the French department of his memory for a word. He knew it was in there. He'd put it in almost fifty years before and hadn't had cause to remove it. But for the life of him he couldn't find it.” 10 likes
“There was nothing fake or added about him. He was all himself.” 6 likes
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