Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness is the debut novel by David Casarett, MD. It is the first in a series about The Ethical Chaing Mai Detective Agency rooted in Thailand, where Ladarat Patalung is the nurse ethicist at Sriphat Hospital.
Right before a crucial government inspection, Khun Ladarat is approached by police detective Wiriya Mookjai. He needs her access to hospital records. Apparently, it is not the first time that the same woman has brought a dead husband into the emergency room. Could it be a case of unfortunate events, or cold-blooded murder? Her compassion and curiosity motivate Ladarat to find out.
Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness is a definite departure from more common aggressive no-nonsense style detective novels. It highlights the difference between Thai and American ways of investigating issues, addressing problems and taking action, politeness, subtlety, and not causing offence being paramount in this eastern society, where patients are viewed as guests. Even characters with positions of status and importance exhibit nervousness and deep concerns about protocol.
The book is written in a simple style, with an uncomplicated feel, and a bit of a meandering plot. Descriptions of scenes and people are good for the senses. Thai food and delicacies are featured frequently. There are some elements of danger and mystery, but they are simple, and low key.
We are privy to all of Ladarat's conjecture. While her thought processes are interesting and crucial to her investigation, they leave the reader with few real surprises.
The exception is found during a parallel story, when the result of the American man's serious accident seems very far-fetched, given what we are told at the beginning, especially since the author of the novel is a doctor.
All that being said, if you are looking for an easy, light, and almost innocent read, Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness may be an pleasant choice.