From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—In this delightful, fifth Dr. Siri novel set in late-1970s Laos, Cotterill once again manages a winning combination of elements: crisp plotting, exotic locations, endearing characters, political satire, witty dialogue, otherworldly phenomena, and a deep understanding of Hmong culture. The story begins when Dr. Siri Paiboun, the 73-year-old national coroner of Laos, attends a Communist meeting in the north that is so tedious that a member of the audience literally dies of boredom during an endless speech. While the doctor is away from home, a booby-trapped corpse is delivered to the morgue. The always-alert and resourceful Nurse Dtui is the only one who notices something amiss, and her swift action saves the lives of several people, including an arrogant visiting doctor and Madame Daeng, Dr. Siri's fiancée. But most of the book concerns the doctor's eventful trip back from the meeting. He is kidnapped by seven female Hmong villagers who, under the direction of the village elder, call upon Yeh Ming, the thousand-year-old shaman who inhabits Dr. Siri's body, to perform an exorcism. The chief's daughter suffers the curse of the pogo stick (yes, there really is a pogo stick) and is possessed by a demon. Only Yeh Ming can free her soul. How all of this gets resolved is another example of the superb storytelling readers have come to expect from Cotterill.—Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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In his fourth outing, Dr. Siri Paiboun, the aged and antic national coroner of mid-1970s Laos, begins facing up to some tough consequences of the Communist takeover he helped bring about—especially the creeping corruption of his party’s elite and the persecution of those among the nomadic Hmong people who fought on the other side during the revolution. Siri sees the impact of this maltreatment firsthand when he and Judge Haeng, his bumbling, blustering boss, are kidnapped by Hmong villagers. They know Siri hosts the spirit of a thousand-year-old shaman and want him to lift the titular curse from their ragtag clan. Meanwhile, back at the morgue, Nurse Dtui and cop hubby Phosy tackle a Royalist plot involving booby-trapped corpses. Judge Haeng keeps the proceedings from becoming too grim by effecting a comic escape from the Hmong and then inadvertently eating a bowl of pig swill full of “anything unfit for human consumption . . . the inedible, the unpleasant and the indescribable.” But even with Cotterill dishing out decent helpings of broad humor, Curse still ranks as the darkest entry of this fine series. --Frank Sennett