I Shot the Buddha
A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery Set in Laos #11
Soho Crime, August 2016
It’s 1979 in Laos. Retired coroner Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, have settled into a life running her noodle shop and living in the apartment above. Having no skill at making noodles, Siri is happy to involve himself in problems of the local citizens. They also have a small house that they’ve opened to an assortment of people in need of shelter and advice. One of these residents is Noo, a Buddhist monk, who bicycles off one day and doesn’t return. The only clue to his disappearance is a note in the refrigerator—a plea to help a fellow monk escape across the Mekhong River to Thailand.
It’s the fifth year of socialist rule in Laos. The farmers and villagers trust in the spirits of animism to help with their lives—they can’t count on the communist officials. So when three women are murdered in three different locations—one by sledgehammer, one by knife, and one by poison—the frightened peasants turn to Siri and his wife to investigate.
Siri and his wife embrace the spirits—Siri vanishes from time to time, and his wife has grown a tail, but perhaps they are growing old and these are flights of their imaginations. Siri soon runs afoul of Lao secret service officers and famous spiritualists.
Cotterill has a delightful way of playing with language, and breathing life into even minor characters. One he described in this way: “He walked as if he expected a wild boar to run between his legs.” This is the eleventh book in the series—readers who enjoy an exotic setting with entertaining characters and clever plotting will want to meet Siri Paibourn and Madame Daeng.
Reviewed by Susan Belsky, November 2016.