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Anarchy and Old Dogs

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In Ananarchy and Old Dogs, the fourth mystery featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun, the 73-year-old national coroner of 1970s Laos (and host to a shaman spirit) discovers a plot to overthrow the country’s Communist regime. Tracing references to ”the Devil’s Vagina” written in invisible ink and cryptic declarations from a transvestite fortune-teller, he sets out to quash the coup. The book’s richest pleasures come from Colin Cotterill’s quirky details (a Bruce Lee movie dubbed to be a propaganda vehicle) and from his unique central character. Siri’s lingering idealism, hidden beneath his cynical — and often hilarious — digs at the government, provide unexpected emotional depth. B+