David Casarett, MD, has written a unique and fascinating book set in Thailand featuring a nurse ethicist- turned detective in Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness. Ladarat Patalung works as the nurse ethicist at the public hospital in northern Thailand and is busy getting ready for public inspections and doesn’t have time for extra work when a police detective approaches her. The night before, his officer stationed at the hospital emergency room reported to him that a woman brought in her dead husband, who was certified by the on- duty doctor as having died of heart failure. To that, Ladarat scoffs, saying that of course any man who dies has his heart stop, but that is no more specific than saying a plane has crashed because it hit the ground. But she becomes more concerned when the detective tells her that his officer recognized the woman as the same woman who turned in her dead husband to the emergency room of a different hospital three months earlier. Could they have a serial killer on their hands? The detective enlists Ladarat to join him as a detective to investigate the case.
Ladarat stays busy with her job in the hospital, as she also looks into the case. She relies upon her understanding of human nature, especially that gained from a particular textbook from her time spent at the University of Chicago. In the process of dealing with issues in her job and in the case, Ladarat gains further insights into human nature that help her in dealing with things.
Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness proved to be a fascinating book with strong insights into human nature and also Thai culture. It introduces us to Thai terms, explaining each one used and especially talking about Thai foods, explaining what each one is made of. Further, we gain insight into medical issues, as Ladarat deals with her routine work. We see a pair of Americans dangerously injured by an elephant they were riding during their honeymoon, with the new husband’s showing no signs of life. In most countries, he would be declared brain- dead and taken off life support, but in Thailand, there are no such standards. Thus the medical officials are faced with trying to convince the Americans that the young man will never wake again and that they ought to decide to take this action. All throughout the book, the dominating question is what is ethical.
I stumbled upon Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness during an Audible sale and am very glad I did. As a lover of other cultures and as someone who grew up with a Thai best friend, I really enjoyed the flavor of the book. It is very obvious that Casarett knows the Thai culture, and the fact that he himself is a hospice doctor gives credibility to the depictions of life in the hospital, especially when it comes to decisions of what to do about the American man who has not shown any sign of brain function. The story does not press forward in the typical American manner, but instead the book adds extra side details that add color to the book.
I really enjoyed the various characters of the book. The only challenge I had was sometimes in keeping straight the names of the various characters. That left some of the book confusing to me, as I wasn’t always able to hear a name and recognize which identity the name belonged to. But otherwise, I really enjoyed the depth of the character of Ladarat and such other characters as the assistant nurse ethicist, the chief doctor in the ICU, the American family, and the barefoot man from the mountains who spends his time squatting in the waiting room of the ICU.
I was deeply impressed by the performance of the narrator, Kristin Kalbli. It took a special person to be able to perform this book, throwing in Thai names and other words to the book written in English. Kalbli keeps the book moving smoothly and shifts between the Thai and English words fluently. But besides her ability to switch between the two languages, Kalbli does a strong job of keeping the book pleasurable to listen to.
I really found Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness to be an excellent book. It has an interesting mystery plot as well as secondary details. Further, the characters do a lot to draw us into the story. I look forward to the next book in this so-far too-short series and give this one five stars.
To purchase this book for yourself, click here on Amazon.