Slash and Burn
Review: When Laos's only coroner tells his wife they will be accompanying a mission to search for missing Americans — "a week in the cool fresh mountain air" he calls it — she turns to him, saying, "[T]rouble finds you, Siri Paiboun." He calmly replies, "Trust me. Nothing can go wrong this time." … in Slash and Burn, the eighth mystery in this series by Colin Cotterill.
It is 1978 and Americans are calling on their government to search for MIAs in Southeast Asia. The US is in a little bit of a political bind here, particularly with respect to Laos; officially, there has been no military action in the country so how can there be MIAs? Still, one Congressman has received a photograph supposedly showing his missing son, a pilot who went missing ten years earlier on a "humanitarian" mission not so secretly organized by the CIA. The US has sent a delegation to Laos to follow up on the report, and the Lao officials have agreed … as long as they can send their own delegation to accompany them. Since there is a potential, however remote, of a dead body or two being uncovered, Dr. Siri Paiboun is asked — arm-twisted — into participating.
Like many of the preceding books in this series, the journey itself in Slash and Burn is far more entertaining than the reason for it. There are a large number of characters, many recurring from the series, but each has, or is given, their own singular, often contrasting, identities, which make for many amusing interpersonal interactions. As the plot unfolds — and it is a complicated adventure Siri is on this time — each new setting or unexpected turn of events provides an opportunity for one or more characters to show a little more of themselves to the reader.
After the somewhat dark and heavy Love Songs from a Shallow Grave, it's a real treat to have the delightfully irreverent Siri return in this decidedly more animated, frequently good-natured story. (It will be hard not to smile, for example, when Mr. Geung Watajak, Siri's capable laboratory assistant, receives the Civilian Medal for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security and Development of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos: Second Tier. A more deserving person could not be named.)
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Slash and Burn for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Killed at the Whim of a Hat
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), July 2011
ISBN-13: 9780312564537; ISBN-10: 0312564538
Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), June 2012
ISBN-13: 9780312564544; ISBN-10: 0312564546
Location(s) referenced in Slash and Burn: Laos
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Slash and Burn by Colin Cotterill — A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: November 2011
List Price: $25.00