Disco For the Departed by Colin Cotterill

 

Historical Mystery

Disco for the Departed (Soho Crime) Disco for the DepartedColin Cotterill; Soho 2007WorldCatDr. Siri, the coroner for all of Laos, is called north to investigate a body found during construction. He and Nurse Dtui leave Mr. Geung behind to take care of the morgue while they are gone. A man’s body has been found encased in concrete in the sidewalk leading to the new Communist leader’s home.

Once the body is cracked out of the concrete, Dr. Siri is able to make a few deductions. The man was black – very unusual in Laos. The only possible black men who could have been there would have been Cuban. The Cuban hospital is still in place after coming over to help during the war. Dr. Santiago, the head of the hospital, had worked with Dr. Siri during the war. Although both are fluent in several languages, they don’t have any in common. Fortunately Nurse Dtui can speak English with Dr. Santiago and Laoatian with Dr. Siri.

The only black men who had been with the Cubans has supposedly returned to Cuba in December. This body was encased in conrete a few months after that. Dr. Siri can only make one assumption – the men didn’t return to Cuba from Vietnam, but instead returned to Laos.

Right after Dr. Siri and Nurse Dtui leave, the Laos army show up at the morgue. They conscript Mr. Geung to go serve up on the lines. In late 1970’s Laos the war is over but there is digging and cleaning at the lines, along with mines to find. Someone doesn’t want Mr. Geung in the morgue and this is the way to remove him. No one expects the man with Downs Syndrome to be focused on one thing – his promise to care for the morgue. About 300 miles from home, he decides to leave the army and walk back across a drought ridden countryside to his home and job.

Colin Cotterill once again weaves an intricate trail of murder, Communism, and spiritualism into the Southeast Asian country. I know little about Laos (like most Americans, I imagine), especially in the post-war years. Dr. Siri is a fascinating character, a mixture of fatalism, spiritualism, and logic. In Disco For the Departed, he needs all of those qualities to find the bizarre story of the man in the concrete.

Disco For the Departed is a quiet book in that there aren’t any chase scenes or grisly murders or near deaths (OK, Mr. Geung comes close – it’s not an edge of cliff type, though). Instead, it’s a study in man’s psyche – both in “normal” people’s psyches and in the slightly Down’s Syndrome psyche. Colin Cotterill’s book goes back and forth between the two stories. The book keeps the reader pulled in with the interesting characters, the situations, and the human interest.

While Dr. Siri’s story started a couple books earlier, someone new to Colin Cotterill’s work won’t have any trouble jumping in here. A reader won’t be making a mistake with Disco For the Departed.

Dr. Siri series at Stop! You’re Killing Me!
More books by Colin Cotterill

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