Sunday, May 31, 2015


Colin Cotterill’s Six and a Half Deadly Sins is a book for Siri Paiboun aficionados.

In 1979, Dr. Siri Paiboun, the over-seventy retired coroner of Laos, receives a Christmas gift. The lovely handwoven woman’s skirt has a severed finger sewn inside the hem.

The finger is the first of a series of clues sewn in the hems of beautiful skirts. 

Siri and his wife Madame Daeng set off across Laos on a macabre scavenger hurt. They seek weavers whose skirts contain more clues. 

Along the way, Siri and Madame Daeng suffer from a mysterious illness. They run into a Chinese invasion of Laos. They investigate the murder of two tribal leaders. They uncover a brutally terrible genocide. And they find a group of native people who are more resilient than the Laotian government.

At first, I wondered if I could finish this book. The beginning is slow. The Laotian government is non-existent, filled with crooked officials on the take. Everything goes wrong. One of Dr. Siri’s greatest allies ends up held prisoner in a latrine pit.

But as always, the books are humorous and brutal. They have the same tried and true characters including the ghost of the transvestite Auntie Bpoo.

Dr. Siri is an acquired taste. Many who have read the Dr. Siri books from the beginning love them. But someone who comes into this book cold might find Six and a Half Deadly Sins directionless and unplotted. (The “unplotted” part would be wrong. The book has a carefully thought out plot with a frighteningly brutal villain.)

There are no books quite like the Dr. Siri books. I’m glad I kept on reading.

To find the complete list of Dr. Siri books, look to the Joe's reading list section in the right column of this blog.


R.K. Robinson said...

I've only read the first two, I see I've gotten way behind.

Joe Barone said...

R.K., Easy to do. I'm trying to catch up on some series I've gotten behind on. So many books, so little time!