Historical mysteries with an Asian flair

Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterillcurse of the pogo stick book cover
One of my favorites features a delightfully quirky 70-plus year old Dr. Siri Paiboun, a coroner living in 1970s Laos. A French trained doctor and an ex-freedom fighter who fought to throw off colonialism, he is philosophically resigned as well as amused by the inept bureaucracy that’s become his new government. Ready to retire, he instead is appointed, with no say in the matter, to be a coroner. Given practically nothing with which to perform his duties, he relies on his and his staff’s ability to improvise, “borrow”and scrounge to build a morgue.  Much to the dismay of his superiors, one of his best morgue assistants is Mr. Geung, a local villager with Down syndrome.

In Curse of the Pogo Stick (the fifth in the series, but the first I read), Nurse Duti and Madame Daeng, are eating lunch beside a corpse frozen solid like a block of ice. Their well-running French refrigerator had been replaced by a huge Soviet model which no one knows how to operate because all the instructions are in Russian and half the knobs don’t work. Consequently, Dr. Siri’s staff had to wait for the deceased to thaw while state auditors busy themselves in the next room trying to find inconsistencies in Dr. Siri’s paperwork.

The corpse thaws and so begins the mystery begins: Why would anyone send a Dr. Siri a corpse with a bomb in it?

The Way of the Traitor by Laura Joh Rowlandway of traitor book cover
This historical mystery takes place in Japan in late 1600s to early 1700s. Sano Ichiro, a Samurai and Most Honorable Investigator, finds himself the victim of the shoguns’s second in command, Chamberlain Yanagiswa’s. Yanagiswa is a jealous rival for the shogun’s favor, who has resorted to lies, spies, and assassination attempts trying to remove Sano from power. In a move designed to keep Sano out of the shogun’s sight, and without the means to personally combat vicious rumors, Sano is sent far away from the shogun’s court to a trivial posting in Nagasaki. 

In the bustling trade port of Nagasaki, Sano is to maintain law and order between the barbarian Dutch traders and Japanese businessmen. When a Dutchman is found murdered, Sano must find the true killer before infighting and rumors tear apart the fragile peace and before Yanagiswa finds a way to get rid of Sano — permanently.

The Convict’s Sword by I. J. Parkerconvicts sword
In the Convict’s Sword, Sugawara Akitada, eleventh century Japanese government official, feels besieged on all sides. His lieutenant and good friend Tora, has been accused of viciously murdering a blind street singer.  Akitada is overworked and understaffed trying to hear petitions of citizens seeking redress for wrongs committed against them, a task complicated by a less than cooperative superior who doesn’t like him very much. 

Because he’s been unable to spend much time at home, his wife Tamako has grown distance and whatever he says seems to make the situation worse.  Small pox has broken out in his province and now he must send his wife and son away for their own safety. Along with all this, the mystery of a wrongly imprisoned convict’s death haunts him.  Ancient Japan comes alive as Akitada pits his wits against thugs, fellow government officials and his own self doubts in this intriguing mystery.      ~    Kelli, Rainier Beach

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One Response to Historical mysteries with an Asian flair

  1. I am most anxious to read each of these and will put them on hold as soon as I can get to the beacon Hill Library. I am basically a read no-not-much about computers, so I must go to the living source.

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