Thoughts on The Delightful Life of a Suicide Pilot, Colin Cotterill (Soho Press, 2020).
Since The Coroner’s Lunch, we (the readers in our household) have read several (not all) of Colin Cotterill’s tales of the exploits of Dr. Siri Paiboun, Laotian forensic pathologist, former freedom fighter, and wry commentator on post-revolutionary state bureaucracy.
Also, on occasion, spirit traveler. I ought to mention that most of the time while I’m reading these books I never know what’s going on. Let’s call them “bemusing.”
But also fun to read, despite the disorientation.
This one features a mysterious diary written in Japanese and Lao that mysteriously falls into the hands of the allegedly retired doctor, and more than one set of nefarious plots that intertwine across time and space, and require a good deal of travel, by foot and boat and helicopter, to untangle and resolve.
LSL – Laotian as a second language – is learned. Tall tales are told. Literary puzzles are posed. Heroism rises to the surface. It’s all just barely believable, enough.
Killing is wrong and very bad, but detective fiction is for fun. This creates a particular sort of contradiction, or cognitive dissonance. How that gets managed gives detective stories their distinctive flavors. Cotterill’s fiction is fantastically juicy, with notes of experience-with-bureaucracy realism.
The heart of this genre is the ingenious triumph of good over evil. Despite the ingenuity of evil, the greater ingenuity of good is supposed to prevail. Cotterill respects the conventions, and creates the appropriate amount of tension as to how on earth he, or rather the protagonists, will manage that along the way.
I found The Delightful Life of a Suicide Pilot as delightful as its title suggests.
Surrounded by books.