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The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery) Hardcover – February 19, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
Book 9 of 10 in the Dr. Siri Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The ninth entry in this series set in 1970s Laos has National Coroner Siri Paiboun, a man in his late seventies and perpetually on the verge of a longed-for retirement, again pulled back into service to examine remains. The road to those remains is circuitous, as is everything in communist-ruled Laos. It winds through the belief of the surviving brother of a long-dead Lao general that his brother’s remains can be found through the clairvoyance of the woman of the title, a woman whom people saw burned on a funeral pyre but who appears again in the village with enhanced clairvoyant powers. It also winds through the suspicion that the excavation for the dead general’s remains may really be in service of some other government goal. As Paiboun prepares to question the woman and find the remains, his new wife, Madame Daeng (who runs the most popular noodle shop in town), is stalked by one of her old French lovers. This quirky mystery is filled with unforgettably strange characters (for example, Dr. Siri is a Buddhist gourmand, crafty at getting around restrictions, haunted by thousands of spirits who appear before him regularly). It’s also filled with Cotterill’s dark humor, best seen in the characters’ wry dialogue. Readers who appreciate reluctant cops and detectives, like Tarquin Hall’s Indian sleuth, Vish Puri, or Stuart Kaminsky’s Russian Inspector Rostnikov, will love Cotterill’s cynical, haunted coroner. --Connie Fletcher

Review

Praise for The Woman Who Wouldn't Die

"Laughter is a subversive weapon when you live under a repressive regime. That's the take-away lesson from Colin Cotterill's gravely funny novels set in Indochina in the 1970s."
New York Times Book Review

"The latest Dr. Paiboun novel by Colin Cotterill, showcases both author and detective at the top of their games. It's an entertaining and captivating mystery underpinned by a fascinating exploration of the tangled history of Laos."
─The Christian Science Monitor

"Cotterill has never been better than in this ninth outing for acerbic Dr. Siri.... The action builds to an ingenious resolution."
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"This quirky mystery is filled with unforgettably strange characters. It’s also filled with Cotterill’s dark humor, best seen in the characters’ wry dialogue. Readers who appreciate reluctant cops and detectives, like Tarquin Hall’s Indian sleuth, Vish Puri, or Stuart Kaminsky’s Russian Inspector Rostnikov, will love Cotterill’s cynical, haunted coroner."
Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

"One of Cotterill’s best books yet. Fans are going to adore this one." 
─The Globe and Mail

"Crime fiction is a comprehensive introduction to different societies, and Cotterill's series are prominent on that bookshelf. It is not that he makes us laugh while working with the heartbreaking essentials of human drama. He fosters affection for and understanding of the Lao beyond the histories of Cold War geopolitics and the familiar touristy visions of southeast Asian hospitality. That is some achievement."
The Indian Times

“Irresistible, for new readers as well as established fans.”
Shelf Awareness

"After Cotterill's hiatus to launch another series set in Thailand (Grandpa, There's a Head on the Beach, 2012, etc.), the return of that glorious curmudgeon Dr. Siri for a ninth escapade is bliss."
Kirkus Reviews

“Colin Cotterill has the enviable ability to entertain the reader while never losing sight of the underlying tragedies upon which his narrative floats ... The conclusion of this book suggests that Siri has at least one further adventure in him. I for one certainly hope so.”
─Reviewing the Evidence

“A first rate mystery... and an education into the people and culture of Laos. The dialog is wry and often humorous, and the novel is recommended.”
─Midwest Book Review

“The best in an excellent series.... You'll go crazy for Dr. Siri and the rest of the superb cast.”
─Kittling Books (Blog)

"Siri and his gang are nonconformists, and we cheer their every insubordinate move.... [Cotterill] mixes the terrible, wonderful, and whimsical in perfect proportions.”
─Murder by the Book (Blog)


Praise for the Dr. Siri series
 
"Unpredicatable.... Tragically funny and magically sublime."
Entertainment Weekly
 
"A wonderfully fresh and exotic mystery."
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
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Product Details

  • Series: A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery (Book 9)
  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (February 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616952067
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616952068
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
... but surely not out of the Job!

After the shutdown of the Morgue of the Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane/Laos Dr. Siri would be happy to enjoy his long aspired retirement together with his wife, Madame Daeng.
But fate has other intensions in mind for the two elderly lovers.
Siri's nemesis Judge Haeng has a proposal for him: A full-paid trip to Sanyaburi province which borders Thailand, to watch the boat races at Pak Lai.
Dr. Siri is obviously very skeptical - his last "state-financed" trip took him and his nearest into the middle of a massacre...
But this time he will have to act strictly as an observer. To observe a witch at work - The Used-To-Be Woman. So called, because after being shot by a burglar and burned on a pyre, she lives in her village safe and sound and now with a wireless to the otherworld...
And some minister's wife has problems with the troubled soul of her brother-in-law. So an expedition to Pak Lai, where his remains have been located via "Mystic Radio" by the ba dong aka the witch Madame Keui aka the Used-To-Be Woman... has to take place, and very "Hey Presto"!
The only person who could help Dr Siri with his own ghosts would be Auntie Bpoo, the transvestite fortune-teller. Only she has yet foreseen her own death and is planning her "Phasing-away"-Party - strictly by invitation only!
And then there is the misterious man "with a star on his forehead" asking strange questions about Dr. Siri's spouse Madame Daeng - and he speaks French! So Dr Siri is considering seriously to make the trip to Pak Lai to assist the wicked work of the witch and take his wife away from Vientiane...
His wife WHO obviously knows who this strange Frenchman is - from a long-ago past she didn't yet share with her husband.
Read more ›
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Excellent series. All the Dr Siri Mysteries are gorgeously written and consistently good (so many writers are uneven, don't keep up the excellence, but Cotterill is 100%). "The Woman Who Wouldn't Die" is the most recent (ninth in the series?) and I have found the Dr. Siri books to be most enjoyable read in the order written, because the characters and plot develop "over time" and it's very satisfying to experience the passage of time and events. However, of course they can be read as stand-alones, so go ahead and start with "Woman Who Wouldn't Die" (but I still recommend proceeding from the beginning, with "The Coroner's Lunch," for your ultimate reading pleasure). This is some of the most stunningly beautiful writing I've encountered in mysteries. It's actually "literary" writing, which you rarely find in the mystery genre. The characters are wonderful, the plots superb, the setting astounding (Laos in the 1970s), everything about the Dr. Siri books is wonderful. Cotterill has given mystery readers a phenomenal gift with the Dr. Siri mysteries. I am a finicky, judgmental, critical reader, and I would give the Dr. Siri books TEN stars, if I could.
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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 fun to read.

Partly because these series take place in an Eastern country (Laos) there is that whole supernatural element to them. The main character (Dr. Siri) hosts a thousand year old Shaman in his body. Now, if you can't get over having to accept that, you should definitely skip reading these books because that part is central to all of them. I thought that it might bother me but the way the author introduces this fact and weaves it into the story, makes you kind of just go with it. I now find that it doesn't bother me at all and in fact, adds to the story.

Ironically, what's more unbelievable for me is that a 73 year old can do all the things Dr. Siri does, suffer such horrible injuries and just keep going. Having parents in that age range, it seems to me very unlikely that people of that age could bounce back so quickly from all the various injuries Dr. Siri sustains.

Be that as it may, these books are all definitely worth reading. Not only are they great stories, they have taught me so much about Laos, it's culture and its history, something I knew absolutely nothing about. I read some reviews saying that the books are propaganda or re-writing of history. My thought is that you read historical fiction to get a feel for the country, culture, habits, etc., and if you want an accurate history, you read a few historical books and make up your own mind. This author's portrayal of the US-Laos conflict is not God's word and I don't think he expects it to be!

Overall, I recommend this entire series.
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In each installment of Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Siri Paibourn mysteries, Siri learns more about his ability to communicate with the dead and we learn more about Laos of the 1970s and the older characters’ revolutionary roles in bringing the Pathet Lao to power. The back story in this book is Madame Daeng’s, and it is as compelling as the mystery that she, Siri, and their friends and colleagues are working out through this book. The beginning of the book seems to gloss over or shift things a little; for example, the reason for Siri’s friend Civilai’s resignation from the politburo is less controversial than the reason given in previous books. But, in general, this book continues the development of characters and expectations from previous books. Cotterill makes Phosy’s detective skills even more apparent and gives Mr. Geung some additional abilities that the reader was not aware of previously. There are a number of tense moments in this novel; and, as usual, Cotterill shows the ability to lead the reader in one direction and then come up with a credible alternative explanation. However, this reader felt a bit left out as the characters were using clues unfamiliar to the reader to figure everything out. My other complaint is that the Kindle edition only occasionally shows breaks where the action shifts to other characters or other locales; this can be confusing. Nevertheless, this is another fine novel in the series.
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