The Merry Misogynist

Written by Colin Cotterill
Review by Alan Fisk

This is the latest in the series starring Dr. Siri Paiboun, the reluctant national coroner of Laos in 1978. He is also a part-time amateur detective, assisting the not‑always‑grateful Inspector Phosy.

Dr. Siri is faced with two mysteries this time: a mute Indian psychotic has gone missing, but the more urgent matter is that someone is marrying and immediately murdering innocent village maidens. The serial killer’s score is up to at least five, and he has already selected his next target.

1970s Laos is certainly an original setting, and a much more ethnically-varied society than I would have expected. I don’t find Dr. Siri to be an engaging character. He is in a permanent state of being immensely pleased with himself, but then the same could be said of Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Siri solves one of the two mysteries with the help of the supernatural visions to which he is prone, which is the most shameless deus ex machina plot device that I have encountered for a long time.

Although Dr. Siri is supposed to have qualified in medicine in France, and to have spent 18 years there, he is apparently incapable of composing a 12-word phrase in French without making four basic grammatical errors and a spelling mistake; “battleground” is used where “battlefield” is needed; and a meal is described as “exotic fair” rather than “fare”. Be sorry for the bamboozled brides, but mourn also for the death of copy-editing.