Don't Eat Me by Colin Cotterill: A review

I did not enjoy reading this book. It was not that the writing was bad; it was more than adequate, up to Colin Cotterill's usual standards. It was not that I didn't like the characters; Dr. Siri Paiboun and his merry band of disrupters in mid-1970s Laos are among my favorite characters in today's fiction and they were all present here, although Dr. Siri was much less prominent than he is in many of the books in the series. No, my problem with the book was its subject matter.

I don't have many rules about what I will or won't read. I tend to be pretty eclectic in my choice of reading materials. But there are a few things that I try to avoid, simply because reading about them is so painful for me. Chief among these subjects are the torture, murder, and trafficking of animals and children. It is such crimes that are at the heart of Don't Eat Me

You can't say I wasn't forewarned. The prologue features a young woman locked in a crate with starving civets with predictable results. When all that is left of the woman - essentially her skeleton - is later found propped up next to a monument in Vientiane, that is the starting point of the mystery that Siri and his coterie must solve. 

The investigation, commanded by the new head of police Inspector Phosy, leads rather quickly to discovery of a major operation of trafficking in exotic animals, animals that are brutalized in captivity, a large percentage of them ending up dead before they reach their supposed destinations. There's also a side operation in the trafficking of young children for the sex trade. They are treated no better than the animals.

Phosy, in his new job, has been hard at work trying to root out corruption in the police force. He's fired people, put some in prison, and is hiring new people whom he can trust (he hopes) as quickly as he can. Now he has this huge investigation to conduct with a force that is, at most, half reliable.

Of course, he also has his volunteer force, the Siriacs. They save the day, as they always do.

A parallel plot line has Siri and his old friend Civilai coming into possession of a modern movie camera, which neither knows how to operate, and planning to film a Laotian version of War and Peace, which will, of course, win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. 

I read this series for the humor and there are usually plenty of laughs or at least smiles and chuckles engendered by the plots. Not so much this time. Indeed, with such a serious main subject, the usual humor might have seemed a bit offputting. In a heartfelt afterword, the author offers more perspective on animal and human trafficking in Southeast Asia. It's a topic that he is obviously passionate about and is trying to do his bit to bring to the world's attention. I salute him for that. Still, I could not find this book as enjoyable a read as the Siri books usually are. Truth is, I rushed through it as fast as I could.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


  1. I'm sorry this book was not as cheery as the others in the series. It seems very gruesome from what you mention. I don't blame you for rushing through it. In my current frame of mind I would have put it aside forever.

    1. It’s an important subject and I do admire Cotterill for wanting to address it. I’m just not convinced that the Dr. Siri series is the best venue for that.

  2. I understand how you feel about this book. Do you anticipate more of this subject in future books in the series?

    1. One never really knows what to expect with this series. Quirky is the word that most readily springs to mind to describe it.


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