The Rat Catchers' Olympics by Colin Cotterill: A review

Dr. Siri Paiboun and his posse are on the loose again, headed for another adventure. This time in Moscow at the 1980 Olympics.

Dr. Siri and his wife Madame Daeng, nurse Dtui, and Siri's best friend Civilai are all drafted to accompany Laos' Olympic athletes as managers, medical personnel, or chaperones and to travel with them to the great event. Laos had never competed in the Olympics before, but, in 1980 when the games were held in Moscow, many countries, including the United States, boycotted them because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan; consequently, the Soviet Union had invited many smaller countries to participate and fill out the bill. Laos enthusiastically agreed.

Not that the little nation had many Olympic-caliber athletes or even the smallest hope of taking home a medal. They were just delighted to be asked.

In the end, they were able to put together a rifle team from their military, boxers, and a track and field - well, mostly track - team. Their enthusiastic supporters loudly cheered their every move and became something of a phenomenon among the Olympic audience.

It's all great fun until Siri begins to sniff a distinct odor of rat. He suspects that one of the Olympians is not who he says he is and he fears a conspiracy and a potential assassination. Liasing with his policeman friend, Phosy, back in Vientiane, he tries to get to the bottom of things, but the picture gets murkier and murkier.

Then, one of Laos' boxers is arrested for murder. A woman in whose company he had been seen is found brutally killed and an "Asian" was seen leaving her apartment, and as Madame Daeng says, "Asians is Asians," meaning that to Russians they all look alike.

Siri and his gang are sure that the boxer is innocent, but how to prove it to the Soviets?

Through all of this, the games continue and the Laotian contingent continues to compete and their cheering section continues to whoop it up on their behalf.

Meantime, the news from Vientiane is not good and Siri is more sure than ever that something big is being planned and not a good thing.

It is always a pleasure to be in the company of Siri and his friends. They are a quirky bunch of cynical misfits but they are true to their culture and, in their own way, faithful to the ideals of the revolution that they fought for.

Dr. Siri is in his 80s now but doesn't seem to be slowing down at all. Let's hope there are many more adventures to come and I hope to be there to read them all!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 


  1. First of all, what a book cover! Secondly, I have not ever heard of this series. It sounds like you have read earlier books by this author. Third of all, having just finished Miss Burma, I thought, why not a Laotian mystery?
    Thanks for the introduction!

    1. They are fun reads. Dr. Siri is quite a character. This is the twelfth in the series, and yes, I've read them all! I was introduced to them by a blogging friend several years ago. If you do decide to try them, by all means read them in order.

  2. What a fun read this one seems! I thought at first it was a nonfiction because of the Olympics angle, but then I read the "Asians is Asians" and I had to laugh. I'm glad you enjoyed this entry, Dorothy.

    1. There's a lot of historical exposition, especially cultural history, in these books. The writer gives us much in regard to the history of Laos's relations with its neighbors like Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, and through it all he weaves very entertaining tales.


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