The Merry Misogynist
Review: Coroner Siri Paiboun is involved with two cases, one a suspected serial killer and the other a missing person, all the while battling endless bureaucracy in late 1970s Laos in The Merry Misogynist, the 6th mystery in this series by Colin Cotterill.
A young woman, who has been strangled and sexually abused, but not raped, is in the morgue with no indication of who she is or where she is from. With government resources limited (the local bureaucrats seem more interested in finding out who's living in Siri's designated housing than in searching for the killer), Siri sets out to investigate on his own. But he's also troubled by a young man, known around town as Crazy Rajid, who has gone missing. Siri's spirits are telling him Rajid is in trouble, serious trouble, but no one has seen him in several weeks. With his fiercely loyal wife at his side, and a dedicated policeman on call, Siri tackles both cases with urgency as he fears the serial killer is stalking a new victim and Rajid may be near death.
Dr. Siri Paiboun is a rational man, a scientist and physician, irreverent and cynical, but one who believes in and trusts his spirits. Here's a description of the character from early in the book — "Siri was certain that if he were more intelligent or a better detective, he'd be able to interpret what he was being shown. He often arrived at the eureka moment long after the fact, when the mysteries had been solved by more conventional, mundane methods. His forehead was permanently bruised and disfigured from his constant slapping at it when he realized what the spirits had been trying to tell him." — but don't believe it for a minute. Siri is thoughtful, proactive, and usually a step or two ahead of everyone else. He's a wonderful character, and a rather unique one in detective fiction.
The author also has a creative way with setting that both evokes a foreign land at a time not that far in the past yet makes it current and real. "They were in a village so basic the main house was a thatch of twigs. They were well-plaited twigs but really nothing to stop a good wolf puff. It was a picturesque place with a stream, like an illustration for a month on a calendar: heaven, unless you had to live in such an isolated place with no power or sanitation or medicines."
These elements, character and setting, and really the strong points of the book. The somewhat atypical serial killer plot is well developed with an interesting twist or two, but the missing person's story is rather weak and unrelated to everything else going on. Still, overall, The Merry Misogynist is a solid addition to this series, which is highly and most enthusiastically recommended.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of The Merry Misogynist for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Curse of the Pogo Stick
Soho Crime (Hardcover), August 2008
ISBN-13: 9781569474853; ISBN-10: 1569474850
Love Songs from a Shallow Grave
Soho Crime (Hardcover), August 2010
ISBN-13: 9781569476277; ISBN-10: 1569476276
Location(s) referenced in The Merry Misogynist: Laos
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The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill — A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: August 2009
List Price: $24.00