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Slash and Burn: A Dr. Siri Mystery Set in Laos [Kindle Edition]

Colin Cotterill
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dr. Siri might finally be allowed to retire (again). Although he loves his two morgue assistants, he’s tired of being Laos’s national coroner, a job he never wanted in the first place. Plus, he’s pushing eighty, and wants to spend some time with his wife before his untimely death (which has been predicted by the local transvestite fortune teller).

But retirement is not in the cards for Dr. Siri after all. He’s dragged into one last job for the Lao government: supervising an excavation for the remains of U.S. fighter pilot who went down in the remote northern Lao jungle ten years earlier. The presence of American soldiers in Laos is a hot-button issue for both the Americans and the Lao involved, and the search party includes high-level politicians and scientists. But one member of the party is found dead, setting off a chain of accidents Dr. Siri suspects are not completely accidental. Everyone is trapped in a cabin in the jungle, and the bodies are starting to pile up. Can Dr. Siri get to the bottom of the MIA pilot’s mysterious story before the fortune teller’s prediction comes true?


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“Outstanding ... deftly inserts humor into what could easily have been an unrelentingly grim plot line.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“The most entertaining case for Siri (Love Songs from a Shallow Grave, 2010, etc.) in years.” —Kirkus

“Any crime fan who hasn’t discovered the Dr. Siri books should start here and then work back. This is the eighth and best , and it’s been far too long since book seven.” —Globe and Mail

"Cotterill brings together all the elements that have made the stories so popular: a good mystery, plenty of humor, and a touch of the supernatural. A must for series fans."—Booklist

Praise for the Dr. Siri series:

"Unpredictable.... Tragically funny and magically sublime."—Entertainment Weekly

"A wonderfully fresh and exotic mystery. If Cotterill had done nothing more than treat us to Siri's views on the dramatic, even comic crises that mark periods of government upheaval, his debut mystery would still be fascinating. But the multiple cases spread out on Siri's examining table are not cozy entertainments but substantial crimes that take us into the thick of political intrigue."—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

"You get a real feeling for what Laos was like in the '70s. The humor is wonderful, too."—New York Post

"The sights, smells and colors of Laos practically jump off the pages of this inspired, often wryly witty first novel."—Denver Post

"A fresh and innovative detective who goes straight to the heart and soul, without any sappty sentiment. THe author gives us exotic locations; a world that few us know well; crisp, intelligent, and often-witty writing; and most of all a hero unlike any other."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"A crack storyteller and an impressive guide to a little-known culture."—Washington Post Book World

“This is the seventh and most sardonic of Mr. Cotterill’s Dr. Siri series, and it is not easy to cope with the combination of misery and merry melancholy that he employs. His writing, as always, is skillful and smooth and his plot is artfully strung together. The book fascinates as it chills.”—Washington Times

"This wonderful series has consistently managed to convey the beauty and sadness of this damaged country through the wisdom and humor of its protagonist."—Boston Globe

"I love this elegantly written series, set in Laos with clever, septuagenarian coroner Dr. Siri. This one, the seventh, is the best, but all of them are terrific.... A delightful mix of history and politics, and an excellent mystery."—Toronto Globe and Mail

“It’s a rare treat to say that a book placed so far into a series is the best one. Authors more often than not run out of steam by the seventh book. Not Colin Cotterill.”—The Oregonian

"Colorful."—Seattle Times

About the Author

Colin Cotterill is the author of seven previous mysteries featuring septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun, all available in paperback from Soho Crime. Colin has received a Dilys Award win and a Barry Award nomination. He and his wife live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he teaches at the university. He is the 2011 Bouchercon International Guest of Honor.

Product Details

  • File Size: 449 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (December 6, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0055PIQ8I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,284 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very smoky mystery December 24, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Colin Cotterill is an expert at blowing smoke in the eyes of the reader. Smoke pervades almost every page of this book.

The time is 1978. The place: deep in the wilds of northern Laos. Dr. Siri has been chosen to join a Lao-American delegation in search of a pilot downed ten years previously. Soon after the delegation arrives at a primitive jungle hotel, the air fills with smoke, purportedly from slash and burn farming. But it's the wrong time of year. What exactly is going on?

More than you could possibly imagine. The reader is in for multiple, overlapping, interlocking surprises as the complex plot unfolds.

The zero-star hotel hosting the delegates is surrounded by a war-tortured landscape full of unexploded ordnance. Definitely a no-walk zone. Add to that the ever-thickening smoke, and you have a terrific locale for a mystery liberally spiced with political tension, spying, profiteering, CIA shenanigans, and spiritual interventions.

You'll encounter a number of quirky characters from previous books, as well as additional eccentrics. I particularly liked the drunken American major who can't stop hugging, the cross-dressing soothsayer, and Siri's lab assistant with Down's syndrome who cannot tell a lie.

I loved the early Dr. Siri mysteries, but stopped reading them after his possession by a thousand-year-old shaman spirit. Things got too crazy for me. But Siri's spirits are fairly well behaved in this book. The cross-dressing fortuneteller is the main one in touch with the spirit world, and she's quite pragmatic about it.

I admired this book for its devious plot, its unusual setting and its large cast of strange characters.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Here we go again! April 21, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an (mostly) airborne resident of Laos for a couple of years--a helicopter pilot for Air America--I've truly enjoyed Cotterill's Laotian characters, descriptions of the country, and his writing style. He knows Laos. He knows the Laotian people. He knows little about the American military and in particular the helicopter world. And I always wonder if the inaccuracies are deliberate (wherein they are political) or unintentional (when near slanderous, they should concern him in my opinion). I may be the only guy in the world who cares. So all of the rest of you can dismiss this review. If you haven't read the book, you won't understand my comments. Sorry. First, you could not get to be a pilot in the Marine Corps (where most of the Air America helicopter pilots came from) without a college degree or two years of college before entering the cadet program. Period.Your racial identity had nothing to do with it. We had black pilots in every squadron I flew in while in the Corps. Some were great guys and great pilots (Don Ringold comes to mind) who I love seeing at the reunions. And some were jerks--I won't name those. So the entire bit in the book about not letting the minority crew chief become a pilot due to racism is just-crap. Not sure why he felt it had to be in the book unless you are making a silly statement about race in America. Wrong place. Wrong book. Wrong information.
As to some of the professed flight maneuvers contemplated in the book (I'm really not sure if it was supposed to be taken seriously) such as letting yourself down on a hoist, they fall into what we H-34 drivers would call-impossible. The problem with the hilarious descriptions of possible maneuvers? I didn't get the impression they were supposed to be hilarious.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Characters, Intricate Plot! January 5, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I recently read my first Dr. Siri mystery, "The Coroner's Lunch", which is also the first in the series. I enjoyed it so much, that I was excited to start on "Slash and Burn", the seventh in the series. This series is inhabited by a rollicking good fun cast of characters. The writing is intelligent and the glimpse into another culture and time is well presented, though quirky.

For "Slash and Burn", it is July, 1978, in Vientiane, Laos. Our protagonist has been the National Coroner (the only coroner in the country) for three busy years, and he really wants to retire in a couple months. Dr. Siri Paiboun describes himself at 74 years of age: "... forty-eight years an unconvincing member of the Communist party, host to a thousand-year-old Hmong shaman spirit, culturally tainted beyond redemption by ten years in Paris. ... Dr. Siri felt he had earned himself the right to be an ornery old geezer. And, no. Staying out of trouble for two months was no easy task for such a complicated man."

Siri is selected to go on one last junket, courtesy of a U.S. delegation trying to find an American pilot downed 10 years ago in Southern Laos. That is, the pilot is the public reason given for the co-operative venture. Events are shown from the point of view of the Lao, and they can be funny. For example, the Americans are led by a U.S. Senator (comfortably, from behind) who is eager for a photo-op with the locals. What he doesn't know, and it's an inside joke for the Lao, is that all the photos show the Lao sitting with both of their feet pointed at the pushy Senator, which is very disrespectful in their eyes.

There is a lot of humor in this series.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
totally forgettable
Published 7 days ago by Joan-Ellen Zucker
4.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Siri's eighth amazing adventure
I have been reading Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri mysteries in order, but I mistakenly read Slash and Burn (the 8th) after The Merry Misogynist (the 6th). Read more
Published 23 days ago by bookaddict
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Book by Cotteril
Colin Cotterill is a wonderful writer and he really nails the pace and time of Laos. We can't wait for the next one to come out and we snatch it right up. Read more
Published 1 month ago by D. A. Griffith
3.0 out of 5 stars Agatha Christie in the Jungles of Laos
In Slash and Burn, the septuagenarian coroner Dr. Siri is pressured by his long-time rival Judge Heng to aid in the possible recovery of a long-missing US helicopter pilot, who... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ed Battistella
5.0 out of 5 stars Up to the best of this magical series!
A human view of a searing time of modern history! Plus the evocation of the landscape.and life of a little-visited corner of the world that I remember with great fondness. Read more
Published 3 months ago by P. Schafer
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Siri still a winner!
It was, as always, a pleasure to catch up with Dr. Siri and his colleagues. Wonderful glimpses of Lao/Mong culture.
Published 3 months ago by Ann Howard
3.0 out of 5 stars A really good read with a surprising twist and motive.
First Sentence: You know?

Dr. Siri, the nearly 80 year old corner of Laos, wants to retire and spend some time with his wife before he dies; a death predicted by the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. J. Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars best Dr Siri book yet!
Love Dr Siri. Mystery and intrigue with a heart! I hope Dr Siri will live forever! Great supporting cast! Wonderful historical/cultural information.
Published 4 months ago by Texas English Teacher
2.0 out of 5 stars When characters become caricatures
I've enjoyed the Dr Siri books of the past. After a couple of years away, I've just read this one. While not a bad read, it was nonetheless disappointing. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Pi Meson
4.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite Dr. Siri Paiboun books
Rich in culture, funny, and full of great characters new and old. The mystery teased but didn't entirely give itself away. Read more
Published 5 months ago by KK Stadler
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More About the Author

Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952. He taught and trained teachers around the world before settling in Thailand where he wrote and produced a forty-program language teaching series, English by Accident, for Thai national television. He spent sever

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