April 16, 2013

Book Review: The Woman Who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill


The Woman Who Wouldn't Die is a fascinating mystery in its own right, but the insights into Lao history and culture in the ninth installment of Colin Cotterill's series about Dr. Siri Paiboun, the ostensibly retired coroner, make it even more irresistible; for new readers as well as established fans.

A woman was shot and killed, her body burned on a funeral pyre. Then she woke up in her bed again--now able to speak to the dead. Known as Madame Keui (Madame Used-to-Be), the medium attracts visitors from across Laos, including the wife of a general. This general's brother has been missing since the revolution, and Madame Keui claims to know where his body is.

Dr. Siri is called in to accompany the general and Madame Keui to the location. He brings along his wife, Daeng, who is jealous of the beautiful Madame Keui and Siri's intense interest in her. Siri, who has seen spirits himself, hopes that Madame Keui can help him unlock the secrets of the dead. Daeng suspects that Madame Keui is up to no good--and that the "visions" are a sham. Is she right, or is it jealousy talking?

Cotterill re-creates Laos in the late 1970s, bringing to life characters ranging from suspicious Communist officers to superstitious peasants. Most vivid are Siri and Daeng, a clever elderly couple whose witty banter and passion for each other make them immensely likable.

I really enjoyed The Woman Who Wouldn't Die. Thank goodness Shelf Awareness finally sent me one of these for review, or I might never have realized how fun they are! I've owned The Coroner's Lunch for about three years, but had never gotten around to reading it. 

I will say that in the wake of the iPhone Siri, it took me a chapter or so to get used to Siri as (a) a real person and (b) a male, but then I didn't think about it anymore.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure! She'll probably love reading about elderly romance.

Are you familiar with Lao culture?

This post contains affiliate links. The review was originally published in Shelf Awareness.