Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Review of The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (2009, Quercus)

Laos, 1978. A government official with a license to travel the country is wooing, marrying, then killing young virgins in remote rural areas. Most of the victims simply disappear, but one ends up on the mortuary slab of Dr Siri Paiboun, the national coroner. Appalled at the manner of her death, Siri decides to investigate, teaming up with the detective married to his nurse. As well as hunt a serial killer is also fighting a personal battle with the housing department and searching for an itinerant Indian man who has disappeared from the streets of the capital. 

The Merry Misogynist is the sixth instalment of the Siri Paiboun series following the investigations and adventures of the Laos state pathologist, who after a lifetime of revolutionary service is rewarded with work rather than retirement. In this outing, Siri seeks to halt the work of a serial killer preying on naïve, young rural women and find a missing Indian man who he’d usually encounter near to his work. In my view it’s probably the weakest of the series so far. While Siri is his usual affable, engaging self, the plot threads felt weak and tired. Each thread was very linear with no twists and turns. The serial killer thread was cliché and the missing Indian made little sense when pressed (he’d left a set of clues leading to where he was, but logically wouldn’t have been able to leave them). And Siri’s spiritual side didn’t surface at all, when it would have made sense to be present. The real saving grace was Siri and his interactions with his close circle of friends and the light humour. I’m hoping the series picks up again as the last couple have been a bit lacklustre, though Siri really is a delightful character.

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