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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 (61 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


“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: #63,856 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 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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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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, slightly off-beat mystery set in 1970s Laos January 30, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had never read any of Colin Cotterill's books, and ironically began with the last book in his "Dr. Siri" series. Dr. Siri is a coroner in Laos in the years just after formal US military involvement in VietNam ended. Dr. Siri became the coroner not so much by choice or by training, but out of necessity -- there was no one else to do it. He is in his 70s and is looking forward to his retirement in a few months; he has an uneasy relationship with the Communist party that runs his country and is considered "suspect" because he spent time studying in Paris. When some Americans arrive in Laos to search for a MIA American pilot, Dr. Siri and his wife end up as part of the Laotian delegation. It's an odd bunch of people, from a very young American woman selected as translator, to a cross-dressing fortune teller to a cantakerous US Senator to Communist party officials and a stray dog. When a member of the delegation is murdered, things start to get dicey. The delegation continues to search for the missing pilot and the wreckage of his helicopter, while trying to figure out who the murderer is, and what secrets various delegation members are hiding.

I enjoyed this book, which I would describe as a light-hearted, quirky mystery, not a thriller with plot twists on every page and not a graphic police procedural. Although the pace is moderate, it really works in the context of the characters and the setting. If you are looking for a break from American, British and (dare I say it) Scandinavian mysteries, you might give this series a try. The setting is fascinating, the characters are delightful and the premise is original. I will definitely seek out some of the earlier books in this series.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 days 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 19 days ago by KK Stadler
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
So interesting. So very funny. I enjoyed this book so much. Never have heard of this series before, but now I will read all of Colin Cotterill's books. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Patricia Don Diego
5.0 out of 5 stars The last of dr. Siri?
Interesting search for a lost MIA American which turns into quite an adventure for Dr. Siri and company. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gary W. Mac Kendrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and interesting but you have to suspend disbelief
The entire Dr. Siri series is quite well written. Almost every book has a very good story line. The characters are very well developed and the mysteries are well thought out and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by meymoon
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr Siri
I am very fond of the Dr Siri books. Mr Collin Cotterill is very good writer and his books are a pleasure to read
Published 4 months ago by Veronica A. Cerny
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder and a coverup in Laos
Once again Dr. Siri and his friends confound the authorities, the high command of the Communist Party in Laos -- and the CIA. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Boston Babe
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, read this
I love the Dr. Siri Mysteries. He's become a favorite uncle, who you want to sit next to and hear all his old stories over and over again.
Published 4 months ago by hasreader
5.0 out of 5 stars great addition to series and the history of the war in Laos
The author has diminished the whimsy enough to write a great historical puzzle involving haunted tambourines ,great characters and Air America in a tale of Northern Laos in the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Diane Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holmes of Laos
One of the best and most interesting of a series of dr. Siri mysteries. Always something new and unexpected at every turn. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Stephanie
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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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