First Sentence: On December 25, 1978, the concrete public-address system pole in South That Luang’s Area Six unexpectedly blew itself up, a Lao skirt with a severed finger sewn into the hem passed through the national postal system unchallenged and Vietnam invaded Cambodia.
Things have changed in Laos. Dr. Siri is no longer the national coroner—there isn’t one—and his team has been disbanded. That doesn’t mean his curiosity is any less sharp. When he receives an anonymous package containing a traditional Northern Laotian skirt and a severed finger, Siri and his wife, with the help of friends and a couple of spirits, set off following a trail of clues against a brutal adversary and a potentially unseen killer.
Even if you’ve not read a previous Dr. Siri book—which would be a shame—one cannot help but be charmed by him and his friend Civilai. Then you set the two of them next to the time period of Laos in 1979, and you know you’re in for something different and special. In spite of Siri’s increasing age, it’s clear he has lost none of his skills of negotiation.
Cotterill does an excellent job of introducing his characters, providing their backgrounds and an understanding of the relationships. This is particularly important for those who come into the series with this book. His descriptions of people make you smile, but also impress the character clearly in your mind…”The choirmaster was an elderly balding version of what Santa Claus might have looked like after a crash diet.”
He also provides a good sense of where and when we are in history. Kudos to the Soho Crime for providing a map at the front of the book. In addition to the wonderful descriptions…”There was far more action in that sky than there was on the ground, meteoroids shooting back and forth like drunken fireflies.”…He also makes you stop and think…”Driving alone on bad roads gave a man far too much time to weigh the good against the bad. Bad invariably won, though.”…and the Chinese attitude toward war…”They win wars by sending in wave after wave of expendable militia until the enemy runs out of bullets. It’s like Stalin said, ‘One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”
“Six and a Half Deadly Sins” takes you down a seemingly innocent road. And then, the road turns to dark and dangerous with the danger and threat steadily increasing all the way to an unanticipated ending.
SIX AND A HALF DEADLY SINS (Lic Invest-Dr. Siri Paiboun-Laos-Contemp) – VG
Cotterill, Colin – 9th in series
Soho Crime – May 2015