Dr. Siri Paiboun, one of the last doctors left in Laos after the Communist takeover, has been drafted to be national coroner. He is untrained for the job, but this independent seventy-two-year-old has an outstanding qualification for the role: curiosity. And he does not mind incurring the wrath of the party’s hierarchy as he unravels mysterious murders, because the spirits of the dead are on his side—and a little too close for comfort.
Dr. Siri performs autopsies and begins to solve the mysteries relating to a series of deaths by what seem to be bear bites, to explain why a government official ran at full speed through a seventh-story window and fell to his death, and to discover the origins of the two charred bodies from the crashed helicopter in the temple at Luang Prabang. As it turns out, not surprisingly, not all is peaceful and calm in the new Communist paradise of Laos.