by Colin Cotterill
This interesting and sensitive mystery about Laos deploys an arsenal of fine writing to explore a strange and complex place and time. The Laotian monarchy has ended, the revolution has suddenly come to pass, and aged Dr. Siri is now the national coroner. The book is written as a series of tableaux — nearly, but not quite, independent short stories. The shifting points of view, the magic realism, the shifting of points of view and ambiguity of motivation, recall a quieter John Irving, and if the sun occasionally sets mauvely or the bear’s point-of-view seems a bit strained, Cotterill and Siri are each so competent that we know things will work out (more or less) in the end.