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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dr. Siri Paiboun of Laos—"reluctant national coroner, confused psychic, [and] disheartened communist"—employs forensic skills and spiritual acumen to solve a series of bizarre killings in Cotterill's quirky, exotic and winning second novel, set in 1977. Could an old escaped bear be mauling Vientiane citizens? Or is it something more mystical—say, a weretiger? When Paiboun is summoned to the capital to identify the nationality of a pair of charred bodies, he quickly flags them as Asians killed in a helicopter crash, and his ability to connect them to the royal family annoys Communist Party leaders. As Paiboun learns of an effort to get the remaining royal family members out of town, he's arrested, accused of damaging government property. But the witness's testimony is questionable, and Paiboun, representing himself in court, escapes this scrape as handily as he's escaped others before. Paiboun's droll wit and Cotterill's engaging plot twists keep things energetic; the rather grisly murders are offset by comedy, including a scene in which a Party member attempts to impose regulations on the spirit world. The elegant, elderly Paiboun seems an unlikely vehicle to carry a series (he debuted in 2004's The Coroner's Lunch), but he does so with charm and aplomb. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Less than two years after the Communist rise to power in Laos, the nervous government is sending the royal family into secret exile, banning festivals where large groups might revolt, and even ordering benevolent spirits to lend their spectral hands to the cause. But rest assured that Dr. Siri Paiboun, the nation's aged chief coroner and host body for an ancient spirit, will find a way to keep life interesting. In his second outing, the impish Siri faces three mysteries. First, the government asks him to identify a pair of badly burned corpses. Soon, a fearsome creature begins slaughtering the citizens of Vientiane. And then people start inexplicably hurtling to their deaths from a ministry building. In one of many farcical twists, the nation's police officers carry empty guns. So Siri; his friend, Inspector Phosy; able nurse Dtui; and an old comrade with a high party post must use their considerable wits--and an occasional supernatural assist--to crack the cases. As they do so, readers will crack more than a few smiles. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Dr. Siri Investigations (Book 2)
  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.; Unabridged edition (August 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455118850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455118854
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,421,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Customer Reviews

This was the first book (the 2nd in the series)I read in the series.
Terry Gallagher
Obviously, the author has written with great deal of empathy and understanding of the Lao Culture.
Prabal Guha Biswas
Well written, interesting plot, great secondary characters and some mysticism thrown in the mix.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Hallinan on August 1, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Thirty-Three Teeth" continues the saga of Dr. Siri Paiboun who, well into his seventies, is more or less drafted to serve as the coroner of Laos. The first in the series, "The Coroner's Lunch," was, for me, the nicest surprise I had all last year (from a book, that is), and the new one is, if anything, even better.

What makes these books so wonderful? Well, practically everything. The characters are fresh, the writing is sharp and, in this age of bloat, kept refreshingly short. The setting is completely unexplored up until now, and in Cotterill's vision it's a comic-opera banana dictatorship run by incompetents whose only real motivation is to dig a protective moat around their own rear ends, a place where truth comes in a distant second to doctrine and expedience.

But what I like best is the way Cotterill interweaves into his mysteries the internal world of the Laotians, rich in both spirit and spirits. Dr. Siri -- not entirely to his pleasure -- has gained entry into the world of the dead, and his dreams are full of the people whose deaths he somewhat reluctantly investigates. This additional layer is never intrusive and never overdone. It gives us insight into a worldview that is very different that that of the West, one that is in some ways richer and more beautiful.

It wouldn't be fair to write even a few paragraphs about this book without saying that Cotterill is also very funny. From my perspective, this is the most delightful new series in several years. I ordered the new one, "Disco for the Departed," months before it came out, and it's currently sitting on my To Be Read shelf -- I keep putting it off because once I start it I'll read it in one sitting, and then it'll be over.

Give Colin Cotterill a try. I've bought several copies of the first two books to give away, but since I probably don't know you, you'll have to pay for your own.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. A Shogren on March 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dr Siri will live on in my mind as a great gumshoe (or sandal) detective and also as being quite representative of the wonderful humor and intellect of the Lao people. My Lao wife (only 6 months in the US from Vientiane) also read the book, laughed throughout and confirmed the geography and characters. Even if you have little interest in the country or people, this is a great detective novel. If you are interested in Lao, you will find a wealth of rich detail. Colin...write some more!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This second book in the Dr. Siri series continues the adventures of 72-year-old state coroner of the newly liberated People's Democratic Republic of Laos, circa 1976. Readers who haven't read the first book ("The Coroner's Lunch") should definitely stop and go back, as it provides a great deal of background and depth for the characters, including explaining just how Dr. Siri has become the carrier of the spirit of a millennia-old Hmong shaman. The setting finds the Pathet Lao government shakily trying to consolidate its power by banning longtime cultural holidays such as Songkran (New Year) and the Rocket Festival, inviting in plenty of Soviet and other Communist advisors (there's a kind of silly cameo by Kim Jong Il), and arranging for the exile of the deposed royal family.

Against this backdrop, three major plotlines emerge. First, someone or something caused a government worker to toss himself off the seventh story of a building. Second, an unknown creature or person is killing women in Vientiane, leaving behind ravaged corpses that look like the victims of grizzly bear attacks. Finally, a pair of charred corpses await Dr. Siri's inspection in the former royal city of Luang Prabang. The first book in the series subverted genre convention by weaving in the supernatural. In it, the spirit world was shown to be a healthy and thriving force with direct influence in the physical realm. Here, that aspect takes over the plotlines to a much greater degree. Both the mystery of the suicide and the mystery of the mauled corpses are directly linked to the spirit world, and Dr. Siri's trip to Luang Prabang is also heavily tinged with supernatural elements.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Dr.Siri is beginning to enjoy the job as national chief coroner of Laos and protests a little less about his desire to retire.
He is a man with a backbone: Siri fights for his able assistant with the Down Syndrome, like Gil Grissom also might want to in Las Vegas, but he wouldn't stand a chance there, American lawyers would shred the evidence obtained by a 'handicapped' lab assistant. Just to show that progress is not always or entirely a good thing.
We learn a little more about Siri's biography, how he moved from poverty (orphaned, raised by an aunt) to religion (aunt passed him on to a monastery where he learned) to education (French charity gets him a proper medical training in France)to lust (meets this nurse and follows her) to communism (they join Ho Chi Minh's movement) to poverty (life in the jungles, then in the Socialist Republic of Laos, after an unexpected victory). The circle of life, at least this one's.
Siri's three cases this time: crashed helicopter pilots who had tried to rescue the deposed king's family; clearing a bear and accusing a tiger of serial murders; pacifying rebellious royal puppets with the help of Inthanet, a puppeteer.
Always in and out of the supranatural, frankly a bit too much for my taste. Another near-destroyer of stars: for me as a practicing amateur of Orwellogy, Cotterill's anachronism with Animal Farm is hard to forgive. Siri reads Animal Farm in a French translation while in the monastery school (i.e. around 1920), later learns in France that the book is anti-communist. Come on, Mr.Cotterill. By the time Animal Farm could have been read by Siri, he was already fighting with the Vietminh.
But then, the book is so likeable, I decide to forgive.
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