I have finished the 45th book for the book challenge. It was The Merry Misogynist: A Dr. Siri Investigation Set In Laos by Colin Cotterill.
In this book, Dr. Siri is keep quite busy. First, he must deal with the Housing Department. Dr. Siri hasn’t been living in his house, which isn’t technically legal according to the Party. There are a number of other people he allows to live there and unfortunately they have been attracting a bit of attention. The attention of the Housing Department. The Housing Department was been watching Dr. Siri, who has been living with his wife Madame Daeng above her noodle shop, who Dr. Siri has been forced to sneak in and out of the shop through the back way and to lay down the law to his tenants at his house in order to get the Housing Department off his back.
His next problem is trying to find the Indian homeless man they refer to as Crazy Rajid. He has been missing for approximately three weeks and they are all worried about him. Dr. Siri tracks down his father and they find that Crazy Rajid has written poems in Hindi. His father has translated them and they are clues. Dr. Siri and Madame Daeng race about the city of Vietienne trying to decipher the clues and trying to find Crazy Rajid. Dr. Siri keeps on having visions of a pregnant woman who has been buried and is covered in maggots. He seems to know that Crazy Rajid is somehow buried and is in danger. He manages to decipher the last clue and takes a sledge hammer and goes to an old temple in the heart of the city that is undergoing renovations and smashes the new renovations and finds Crazy Rajid has been walled up in the renovations. Dr. Siri saves Crazy Rajid from certain death and restores him to his father and all is well.
The third thing is a mystery that Dr. Siri is presented with as he works as a coroner for Laos in Vietienne. A young woman from the provinces who has been murdered has been brought in. She was strangled and violated, a black stone pestle placed in her. She had been tied with a pink ribbon. This young woman was also absolutely white except for her feet. They eventually discover that she was a young woman who was recently married to a man from the road department who had come to her village who had come to take her away to Eastern Europe but no one had heard from her after the wedding. She had been found 40 kilometers from the village. Later Dr. Siri learns of a second young woman in a similar condition in another part of the country from a few months earlier. Then he learns about the bones of another woman that were found some twenty years ago in a similar situation and with the help of the Women’s Institute, he learns of more stories of young women who have gone missing as soon as they have been married to men from a government agency. He starts to investigate what government agency it could be and discovers that it could be the census department. In a series of asides, we learn about a worker who is targeting a young woman, a school teacher, named Wei in a rural village. He tries to get her to fall in love with him. She does, and he writes to her and tells he that when he returns in two weeks that they will marry. He makes sure that she is a virgin. She is only seventeen years old and very naive. After two weeks he returns with the census team. He drops off one worker. He kills the other worker (he is the driver) and he goes to the village to marry Wei.
Dr. Siri figures out that it is one of the two census workers or the driver. He follows the truck to the province. He sees the one worker is dropped off. He sees the worker killed and knows the driver is the murder. He knows he can’t wait for Phosy, the police detective who is following, to get there so Dr. Siri climbs into the toolbox and secrets himself away. He makes a airhole so he can breath and waits while the wedding takes place, knowing that Phan, the driver will come back for the ritual killing because he has left champagne, glasses, the pink ribbon, the pestle, and caviar in the toolbox. Phan and Wei and Dr. Siri, concealed in the toolbox, come to a clearing some miles outside the village. Phan takes a blanket and the picnic supplies and then gets Wei from the truck. Dr. Siri takes a wrench from the toolbox. When Phan attacks Wei with a broken champagne glass, Dr. Siri smashes Phan’s skull with the wrench and kills him. Then he calls Phosy. Dr. Siri has solves the mystery of the Merry Misogynist. The man was a disturbed hermaphrodite. That was the reason he was marrying and then killing these young virgin women. He was a sick, demented person.
Dr. Siri ends his story by telling his tale, and the story of how he found Crazy Rajid to his good friend Civilai at a party at his house. All his tenants are there and he is fixing up the house and it is a going away party for the twin babies who are going back home to the relatives now that it is safe. Dr. Siri is happy to have the Housing Department off his back and glad to have solved the mystery death of the poor young woman.
This was a fascinating book. Laos is an exotic country. The author describes a beautiful but poor area, a diverse population, rich and poor, Laotian, Indian, Thai, Hmong, Vietnamese. I really enjoyed this book and the puzzles that Dr. Siri had to solve.