The Merry Misogynist

Monday, 11 October 2010

Cotterill changes things slightly with the sixth volume in the Dr Siri series by letting the reader in on the modus operandi of the serial killer preying on attractive village virgins, but otherwise the elements that have run through the stories to date are all there. They've changed slightly, as you'd expect them to, but they're there.

Having turned over his government-provided living quarters to a ragtag gaggle of misfits and eccentrics, Siri has based himself above his wife's noodle shop, a move that incurs the indignation of  overzealous bureaucratic bean counters. The rest of the regular cast are in evidence, although Crazy Rajid's gone missing, Civilai has been transformed into an amateur pastry chef and Siri's dead dog is back in spirit rather than physical form.

Those elements form the embroidery around the central mystery which kicks off when the body of an attractive young woman from the hill country, found strangled, sexually abused and tied to a tree. Examining the body, Siri is bemused by the fact that the victim had clear, pale skin over most of her body, though her hands and feet were and blistered, callused and gnarled. 

It soon becomes obvious that there's a serial killer on the loose targeting women in remote villages though the lack of a centralized clearing house for data about murders means that there's no way Siri can be sure how many victims the killer has chalked up. Until, that is, Siri's natural ingenuity comes up with a viable work around.

While the reader becomes aware of the killer's modus operandi as he goes about setting up his next victim it's a matter of whether Siri can identify and catch him before another attractive village virgin is added to the tally. As a narrative device this work rather well. The reader knows who the killer is and what he's about, but doesn't know where he is while Siri, putting the pieces together, eventually gets the who part, after which the where kicks in.

After the city-based police procedurals where slick operators have access to sophisticated forensic equipment and all the latest technological advances it's a nice change to have an investigation where forensic details can only be confirmed at the high school chemistry lab, the blue light from the school disco is an important investigative tool and phone calls to pass on information involve far more than tapping a couple of digits into a handset.

Another little gem in a series that just keeps getting better.

© Ian Hughes 2012