Slash and Burn

Written by Colin Cotterill
Review by Janet Williamson

This Doctor Siri Paiboun mystery opens in 1968 when Boyd Bowry, son of a U.S. senator, is presumed dead after the helicopter he was piloting exploded over a remote jungle village in the northern mountains of Laos.

Ten years later, psychically enhanced Doctor Siri, the country’s only coroner, is dealing with Shamanic mysteries whilst awaiting his retirement. He lives with his wife, noodle seller Madam Daeng, evading the dangers from living near Kampuchea (Cambodia), refugees, Khmer Rouge, and seasonal typhoons. Siri’s superior, Judge Heung, sends for him and instructs him to form a delegation to meet with an American delegation who want to determine what happened to Bowry.

Siri contrives to take his closest family, colleagues and friends as interpreters and investigators, including a transvestite. They travel by helicopter to the remote village close to where Bowry was last seen and meet up with the Americans, and through the use of a young interpreter named Peaches, begin exchanging information and investigating Bowry’s last mission.

News arrives concerning the mysterious deaths of people connected with the pilot, and this energises the investigating teams.

Siri sifts through incongruous clues to pronounce upon the fate of the pilot, and he denounces a murderer whilst coping with having his own death foretold.

The masterly exposition of facts, and plotting, wit, humour and warmth made this an enjoyable and entertaining read.