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The Coroner's Lunch

(Dr. Siri Paiboun #1)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  11,227 ratings  ·  1,619 reviews
Laos, 1976: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has been unwillingly appointed the national coroner of newly-socialist Laos. Though his lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky to say the least, Siri’s sense of humor gets him through his often frustrating days.

When the body of the wife of a prominent politician comes through
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Soho Crime (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  11,227 ratings  ·  1,619 reviews

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Kylie D
A gem of a book, with an exotic setting too! Set in 1976 Laos after the communist takeover, it follows unlikely state coroner Dr Siri Paiboun, a 72 year old doctor that got the job by default, whether he wanted it or not. Siri and his lab techs have everything under control, until the arrival of a politicians dead wife and another body of a man who popped out of a lake. So starts the spiral where things get out of control. Siri has his work cut out, not by the bodies that slowly give up their ...more
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
4 stars

This was a very entertaining and refreshingly different read! Set in the communist country of Laos during the 1970's, The Coroner's Lunch is a mystery/crime novel with a bit of the supernatural and a nice dose of humor thrown into the mix. I absolutely loved Dr. Siri Paiboun, a bit of an atypical sort of hero, but a very charming and convincing one despite his background and his seventy-two years. Siri is not in the least a detective, but instead has his training in medicine. With
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I can’t remember how I stumbled across this book. Was it an Amazon daily deal? A Prime book of the month? Whatever, it has languished on my kindle for months if not years. Somehow my husband read it before I did and was heavy on the praise (and the laughter). I can see why. This book is strong on dry wit and sarcasm. It takes place in 1978 Laos. Dr. Siri is a 72 year old coroner not exactly in love with the communist regime. I found myself consistently chuckling at the good doctor’s takes on
Christmas Carol ꧁꧂
I had been looking for this book for a while. I had an all too brief holiday in Laos a couple of years ago & would go back in a heartbeat. & while a lot of tourists are disappointed in Vientiane, I wasn't. I liked the France meets Asia charm.

The beginning of this book was really good, packed full of characters, wit & charm. The politics of Laos & how the septuagenarian Dr Siri Paiboun became the Laotian coroner was hilarious.

The trouble is, it became too packed full of
I love the German title for this novel, Den motvillige kommunisten (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #1) It must mean something like 'the willfull communists' (or purposeful communists?)- which is satirical in itself. !!! Oops, I've had it wrong. See Tania's comments below. !!!

Laos, 1978: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has been unwillingly appointed the national coroner of newly-socialist Laos. Though his lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky to
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Richard Derus
Feb 15, 2012 rated it liked it
This review can now be seen on Shelf Indulgence!
I likely would never have found The Coroner's Lunch if it hadn't been a group read for The World's Literature book group here on Goodreads, and it would have been my loss. If, like me, you like mysteries but weary of the formulaic cynical police investigator or PI, the standard 6 - 8-character cozy village and requisite 2 red herrings and misdirection, this first Dr. Siri novel from Colin Cotterill is a must-read. Dr. Siri is a wonderful, believable character. Laos is a character in its own ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Coroner’s Lunch” was published in 2004 and is a highly special find for me. It is not only because author Colin Cotterill gives us the unique setting of Laos and an elderly sleuth. It is not even merely because, rather than tacking a location onto a mystery; he does justice to a recent historic snapshot of this lifetime. Immersing worldwide readers into the milieu of a poorly-known communist culture and enabling us to relate to them, is an impressive educational feat.

A mystery is plotted
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
aPriL does feral sometimes
When America took up the war in Vietnam that the French started, the war spread into neighboring countries such as Laos, causing war there, too. As this cozy takes place shortly after that horrible devastation, I read this ‘fun’ novel feeling discombobulated.

If readers can suspend memories of the raw war footage of the things that occurred in Laos and Vietnam in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as well as of the horrible ongoing poverty, and the selling of young country girls into sexual slavery for food,
I loved the unique setting and characters of this book (it's set in 1976 in Laos and the protagonist is a 72-year-old state coroner), but the mystery was kind of all over the place and ultimately, didn't convince me.
(I listened to this on audiobook.)
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Juliane Kunzendorf
This book was mentioned in passing on Episode 037 of the Reading Envy podcast, and it peaked my curiosity. Later on, I ended discussing it on Reading Envy Podcast Episode 042. I love when books trickle down.

Dr. Siri is 72 years old, but as a person under a new Communist regime who still has skills to offer, the government is not going to let him become a person of leisure. After a career as a surgeon, he is tasked with being the official state coroner, and has to teach himself with outdated
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Imagine for a moment that while you were in Paris studying medicine, you fell in love with another student and got married. Imagine that, as a condition of marrying this beautiful woman, you agreed to go back to French Indochina and join the revolutionary forces. Imagine, further, that you are now in your seventies, the revolution has been recently won and you are told that you will now take the role of the chief (and only) coroner in all of Laos. That is precisely the circumstances in which we ...more
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
Viv JM
Well, this was an absolute breath of fresh air. Fascinating setting and era, terrific non-stereotypical characters (including the wonderful Siri), an intriguing mystery and some lovely gentle humour. The audiobook was superbly narrated by Gareth Armstrong.

Books like this are one reason why I love reading challenges - if I hadn't been looking for a book set in Laos, I doubt I would ever come across this book, but I am so glad I did and look forward to continuing the series.
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Awesome setting. Interesting characters. Witty dialog. Loved it.
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
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian-crime
I read this book in 4 days. It was an easy read and a solid 4 stars. Dr. Siri Paiboun is a doctor who has been appointed the chief (and only) coroner of Laos. He is 72 and had planned to retire, but was not given a choice. He has 2 assistants, 1 of whom has Down's Syndrome. He has almost no equipment--an ancient microscope, a few books and no way to test for poison. Despite all these handicaps, he manages to solve several murders and make some nasty enemies at the same time. He has to deal with ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Probably the most original mystery novel I've ever read, it blends detective work with some mysticism and a dash of humor. Dr. Siri is a refreshing investigative character, a unique introduction to this genre. I'd like to thank whoever suggested this book to me but can't remember who it was, so if you read this comment and I'll update my review.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr Siri the national (and only) coroner of Laos has puzzles to unravel. One by one important and not so important people are being killed. Luckily he is helped by an unusual collection of good people.

The Glorious Revolution...
When he had arrived in Vientiane for the first time with the victorious Pathet Lao on November 23, 1975, he hadn’t expected, at seventy-two, to be learning a new career.

The promotion...
We’ve decided to make you the Republic’s chief police coroner.” He looked into Siri’s
Sep 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cozy, political, ghost-whisperer, medical-examiner mystery set in 1976 Communist Laos. Yeah. It's kind of all over the place. There were also clumsy info-dumps at the end, explaining the murders in detail. The coroner, Dr. Siri, did hold my interest, though. This is the first book in the series, so maybe the plots get a bit tighter in subsequent books.
Susan in NC
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this mystery set in Laos in 1976 soon after the Communist Pathet Lao regime has taken over. It’s been on my tbr pile for ages, and I finally read it as part of the Book For All Seasons group’s challenge to read a book set in or an author from another hemisphere; I live in the USA, so perfect! It’s a time and place I know very little about, but it also stars a fabulous protagonist I can’t wait to revisit.

Dr. Siri Paiboun, a physician, has been appointed chief coroner; sounds
Beth Asmaa
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 80aroundtheworld
Found this mystery very informative about Laotian history, religion, politics, and minorities. The setting in Vientiane, Laos, and its environs looms large, even bringing into the mystery the neighboring Vietnamese and the Hmong minority. The Pathet Lao communists have recently taken over the country from the Royal family, and have on their agenda progress and betterment for Laos. The main character--lifelong Communist and soldier, medical doctor, and now Laos's coroner--Dr. Siri Paiboun is ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“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
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
Jul 31, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 ...more

Other books in the series

Dr. Siri Paiboun (1 - 10 of 14 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 (Dr. Siri Paiboun #10)
  • I Shot the Buddha (Dr. Siri Paiboun #11)
“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.” 18 likes
“There was nothing fake or added about him. He was all himself.” 9 likes
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