Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness (Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency #1)by David Casarett
Published on September 13th 2016
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“Two nights ago, a young woman brought her husband into the emergency room of the Sriphat Hospital in Thailand, where he passed away. A guard thinks she remembers her coming in before, but with a different husband – one who also died.
Â Ladarat Patalung, for one, would have been happier without a serial murderer-if there is one — loose in her hospital. Then again, she never expected to be a detective in the first place.
Â And now, Ladarat has no choice but to investigate…”
Ladarat Patalung is a nurse ethicist at a hospital in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. When a police detective asks for her help in searching records to see if this woman has brought other men to the hospital, she finds herself falling in love with the idea of being a detective.
Her life has been stagnant. She was widowed twelve years ago after just a few years of marriage. Her life revolves around her job and her cat. Now she is being proactive and getting involved in the lives of people around her.
It becomes obvious very quickly that this book is written by a Western man for an intended audience who is not familiar with Thai culture. Terms that would be easily recognized by a Thai audience are painstakingly defined. The author has spent a lot of time in Thailand and has done a lot of research but it does distance the reader from the story. He works all this detail in by having Ladarat contemplate everything around her very deeply. It makes her come off as a very cerebral and unemotional character who is always partially removed from the people and circumstances around her.
I love the premise of the main mystery. Why does a woman bring in a second dead husband a few months after her last one died? That’s what made me interested in the book. I also haven’t read many books set in Thailand. However, there are several other plots in this book and sometimes that mystery gets forgotten for a while. There is the story of an American man who is injured while on his honeymoon. This serves to set up discussions on American versus Thai responses to health care and crises. There is also a mystery man hanging out in the waiting room who never speaks to anyone. Ladarat is charged with getting rid of him because there is an inspection of her hospital in a few days and the administration doesn’t want homeless people hanging around.
I did learn about Thai culture and attitudes while reading this book.Â I’d recommend this for people who like deliberately paced stories with plenty of slice of life details about places that they aren’t familiar with.Â Another book that does this well is The Marriage Bureau for Rich People.
I got 67 pages into this book when my own ethics demanded I know more about this author, who is obviously making money with formulaic writing based on another writer AND Thai culture.
Although I was getting annoyed by even the character development so blatantly referencing McCall Smith, the trigger to investigate this author, himself, came when he wrote in a character who runs a brothel. Drawing on an industry that sexually exploits women and children, and is part of human trafficking?
I had already been asking myself was this man Thai or even connected to Thailand in any way? From what is known of this author, no he is not. And if I’m going to financially support someone educating me about Thai culture, why would it be a white American male?
Then, the clincher came as I read about his literary past. I come across an article about his book on resuscitation. It makes reference to freezing & thawing living animals, not fiction, but real. How is this ethical? It makes me feel sick to the stomach that this grotesque practice, which to me, is vivisection, is described as “exploration”.
It is rare that I will not finish a book, even half-good ones, but I cannot, in good conscience, finish this one, or even pass it on – it’s going in the bin.
Whilst the idea of a book about a nurse ethicist is original & appealing (albeit a mechanism to incorporate the moral theme of No. 1 Ladies Detective), it has raised more ethical questions than I could have imagined!