THE RAT CATCHERS’ OLYMPICS
By Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime (August, 2017)
A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery (Book #12)
by Shirley Wetzel
1980: Dr. Siri Paiboun, the last coroner of the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos, his wife Madame Daeng, and his dear friend Comrade Civilai, are all in their mid-70’s. They should be content to sit around by the river, eating baguettes and guzzling rice wine, but old age is not keeping these feisty septuagenarians’ from their adventures.
Siri and his lady wife have just returned from Bangkok, where he’d impersonated the Supreme Patriarch of Laos in order to give them a five-star vacation on the big city. They barely made it back to Laos with their lives, and both are now bald as billiard balls, but they wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
The Olympics are being held in Russia this year, but things aren’t going well. Because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, half the countries in the world are boycotting. This turns out to be good for the smaller countries like Laos, allowing their athletes to participate in the games for the first time ever. The government manages to pull together twenty athletes, mostly from the military, to shoot, run, and in one case to race-walk. Many of the young people had never been out of their villages, and none had a chance in hell of winning, but hey, it’s a chance to bring attention to their little country and have a great time in the bargain.
Comrade Civilai is the head of the contingent, and Siri figures he’s been chosen to be in charge of the team’s medical needs. Civilai gives him bad news – the government does not approve of his way of playing fast and loose with the rules and chose another of the eight qualified comrades. Visiting Moscow is at the top of Siri and Daeng’s bucket list, and he moves hell and high water to get the gig.
Early on, the merry band discovers there is an imposter on the team, and he may have a nefarious reason for being in Moscow: one that might cause an international incident of huge proportions. Siri, Daeng, Civilai, and Nurse Dtui, with help from their helpful Russian interpreter Roger, set out to foil the plot, enlisting Dtui’s policeman husband Phosy to do some sleuthing back in Laos. The Rat Catcher of the title, along with another “vermin eradication officer” from Botswana, throw in their skills to prevent disaster.
This is the twelfth book in the Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery series. Mr. Cotterill has managed to write another perfect book. The main characters have grown older, but their story has grown ever richer. To this reader, they have become old friends. The bonds between them are tangible, the love unspoken but real. In a country struggling with a failed experiment in communism, they bring hope and cheer to those around them. The author knows the country well, and presents Laos and its people with respect and a deep admiration. Cotterill’s sly humor is the cherry on top of this wonderful series. Highly recommended.
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