The fourth of Colin Cotterill’s series of crime novels featuring Dr Siri Paiboun, the coroner of Laos, is the usual mix of gentle satire, straightforward characterisation and the invasion of the supernatural into the rational world. In Anarchy and Old Dogs, Paiboun finds himself uncovering a plot to overthrow the fledgling communist state and, in spite of the relentless satire of the Party and the communist bureaucracy, Paiboun’s idealism and loyalty to the communist cause are never questioned. In this sense, I get the feeling that Cotterill is trying to develop the series somewhat. This novel is much more politically involved and mature than the others, exploring the political contradictions, and it is interesting that Cotterill has also given more emotional depth to his central characters here, even preparing the ground for the development of their future personal relationships. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s clear that Cotterill is bracing himself for a long series of books, where he needs to develop the overall personal narratives of his main characters alongside the particular narratives of each novel. I suppose this is a necessary phase for Cotterill to go through, but I found it the least satisfying of all his novels to date – possibly precisely because of its status as a transitional novel in the series. I got the feeling that the plot was never fully worked out and far too often the solutions to the mysteries were arrived at without sufficient explanation, the author relying on easy and (dare I say) lazy solutions time and again. Of course, this is light, easy reading, designed to put a smile on your face, and it remains another gentle romp, but it was heavier going than the previous three novels in the series and less satisfying as a result.