This book is only the second book set in Laos that I have ever read. The setting is fascinating. The suspense is high. The coroner is sweet, except when he is sarcastic, but his victims deserve it, and being sarcastic endangers his life, so you admire his bravery.
He is a communist and had fought for Laos to become communist. At age 72, the communists finally won and he assumed he could retire from being a physician. The party screws him over and makes him the country's only coroner. He learns how to be one as he turns the pages of a French pathology textbook. His assistants are a nurse who reads gossip magazines at work and a man with Down's Syndrome.
When three bodies are found in a lake with marks of torture on them, the incident threatens to cause a war between Laos and Vietnam. He works to find the truth of the deaths, hoping the truth will avert the war. He is also working on the cause of the death of an official's wife, and then the death of the woman who allegedly confessed to the crime.
And then somebody starts shooting at him. He wonders how to keep himself and his assistants alive while he keeps on ferreting out the truth.
Hmong spirituality is treated seriously. I never know what the tribal beliefs of the Hmong were, so that is also fascinating.
I am going to buy a lot more books by Colin Cotterill.