Slash And Burn by Colin Cotterill

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Slash And Burn by Colin Cotterill

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Elderly and really-should-be-retired Dr Siri takes on a case of a missing American airman. The investigation involves some colourful characters, precarious terrain and individuals with their own agenda: Siri has his work cut out.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 374 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-0-85738-197-2

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The front cover suggests an action-packed, thriller-type read. But I hadn't bargained for the charm similar to Alexander McCall Smith. So, a light read then, fair enough. And I could tell from Cotterill's one page 'Acknowledgements' that he is a witty writer. And that is certainly underlined by the chapter headings, such as Another Fine Mess and Lipstick and Too Tight Underwear.

And the first sentence certainly caught my attention. Dr Siri and Madam Daeng sat on the edge of the smelly bed and looked at the body hanging from the door handle opposite.

We then go back five weeks or so in order to (hopefully) make sense of the circumstances relating to the dead body. We're in Laos in the 1970s and here Cotterill stops to give his readers a sense of the economic and political situation. So, light reading with a bit of a sting. Cotterill is more than happy to give a dig now and again. For example, An editorial in Pasason Lao news-sheet informed the 40 per cent of the country who could read and the 2 per cent of those who could be bothered, that the People's Democratic Republic of Laos had never had it so good. Ouch.

Dr Siri is the country's only coroner. He's looking forward to putting his feet up and spending more time with his wife. But his rather over-bearing boss, Judge Haeng has other plans ...

I knew early on that I was going to enjoy this book. Even if I ended up feeling lukewarm about the plot, I knew that Cotterill's clever style would see me through. And it did. There are so many elegant sentences in this book that I found it a joy to read.

And Cotterill had no trouble in bringing all of his disparate characters to life on the page. Dr Siri, the main character, comes across as an affable one-off and I also loved his indomitable wife too. She's hoping that her husband will manage to stay out of trouble (he's a serial meddler, apparently). But obviously that isn't the case and before she knows it, she's part of the investigating team and she's not at all sure how it happened. She certainly can't remember giving her permission.

We get the low-down on Dr Siri's colleagues. The morgue team (lovely phrase) and once again, it's colourful characters ago-go. Not to be taken too seriously. The charm factor didn't make me laugh - but it did make me smile a lot.

Dr Siri has given this case a lot of thought - and then dismissed it as a storm in a teacup. The poor pilot is probably long dead and for some reason Dr Siri is on some wild goose chase. But there are plenty of awkward questions still to be answered. The plot thickens nicely, as they say. There's the odd nod to the poverty of the area and also to the heavy hand of America. Intrigue is the name of the game with US senators and the CIA involved. Will the elderly Dr Siri cope with all of this? You might be surprised. I really enjoyed this book, in particular Cotterill's writing style. Recommended.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall.

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Buy Slash And Burn by Colin Cotterill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Slash And Burn by Colin Cotterill at

Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri Paiboun series in chronological order


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