I am not a reader who enjoys thrillers or horror or stories of violent crimes that show the violence. One can see that from what I write – cozy mysteries. I find stories of serial killers boring because I’m not interested in the psychology of the abnormal. There is enough psychology in dealing with what we consider normal everyday people. The lives of those around us, dealing with what life throws at them, is of far more interest. Why? Because they are like us. At least normal in the way we believe and hope we are anyway. So how do readers of my ilk, who prefer a cozier read, get a shot of something different? I find it in experiencing new places, different cultures, a milieu foreign to me.
One series that I have read in the past several years has filled this need and because of that I remember them when many of the cozy mysteries I read set in the western world mesh and mingle – despite having enjoyed them at the time.
Colin Cotterill’s Dr Siri Paiboun series, set in Laos of the 1970s, replete with wonderful characters, culture, politics, history, mystery, crime, not a little spirituality (he hosts the spirit of a long dead Hmong shaman), and above all wit and humour, is one of my favourites. I have read – devoured – every one of them and hope there will be more. Start with The Coroner’s Lunch (2005) and read through to the latest and eleventh I Shot the Buddha (2016). You will find morgue assistant Mr. Geung, Nurse Dtui, police officer Phosy, old comrade and politburo member Civilai, Auntie Bpoo, Madame Daeng, and a host of others. You will smile at the wry humour as Dr Siri outwits government bureaucracy in his belief that at 72 years of age what can they do to him anyway; wonder at the resilience of the human spirit that survives forty years of political rebellion; revere the ingenuity as the crime and its solution is revealed.
I won’t go into the various storylines of these books. For that you can go to Colin Cotterill’s website (an experience in itself) or Goodreads. Colin Cotteril has spent many years teaching English in various parts of the world and now lives in Thailand. His knowledge of Asia and of the nuances of language are clear in his well crafted, extremely readable books. Their popularity speaks for them.