First Line: "I have come to see you, Khun Ladarat, about a matter of the utmost urgency."
Ladarat Patalung is the nurse ethicist for Sriphat Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so when something strange happens in the emergency room, her expertise is called needed.
Two nights ago a young woman brought her husband into the emergency room where he passed away. The problem? A guard remembers the same woman coming in before-- but with a different husband who also died.
Now Ladarat has no alternative but to conduct an investigation. Is there a serial killer on the loose in her hospital? If there is, she is determined to do everything in her power to stop this person.
Through the talents of writers such as Timothy Hallinan, Colin Cotterill, and now David Casarett, I am learning a great deal about the wonderful people of Thailand. How many other cultures do you know of that have names for all of the many different types of human smiles?
I quickly fell under Ladarat Patalung's spell. She is a truly solitary woman whose life revolves around the hospital. She takes her job as an ethicist very seriously, but outside of her job, the only interactions she has are with the person running the food cart in her neighborhood and her cat. (By the way, those stops at that food cart made me ravenous for Thai food!) Ladarat travels to and from the hospital in a forty-year-old Volkswagen Beetle, and the year she spent studying in Chicago means it's easier for her to bridge the cultural gap between East and West when patients and their families need her.
It doesn't take long for us to know what's happening with the woman and her serial husbands; the pleasure is in watching the way Ladarat tracks down this black widow. Ladarat does do something very ill-advised that in other books would make me accuse the main character of being too stupid to live, but in Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness, Ladarat's actions prove her to be as naive as only the truly good-hearted can be. I don't quite know how Casarett managed my volte-face, but kudos to him!
There's more to this book than a nurse ethicist's investigation. Besides the mouth-watering food, there's an extremely important inspection that she needs to get ready for, and a severely injured newlywed couple and their parents who need her skills. I also learned a bit more about the role of Chinese immigrants in Thai history.
This is a book that's perfect for the armchair traveling amateur sleuth. Exotic location. Food. Culture. Intriguing mystery. And a main character who will have you eagerly awaiting the next book in the series-- just as I am.
Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness by David Casarett
Redhook Books © 2016
Paperback, 368 pages
Cozy Mystery, #1 Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.