In the engaging fifth entry in Cotterill's unusual crime series set in 1970s Laos, A Pogo Stick Brings a Curse Down upon a Hmong Village.
In Vientiane, Laos, a booby-trapped corpse, intended for Dr. Siri, the national coroner, has been delivered to the morgue. In his absence, only Nurse Dtuis intervention saves the lives of the morgue attendants, visiting doctors and Madame Daeng, Dr. Siris fiancée.
On his way back from a Communist party meeting in the north, Dr. Siri is kidnapped by seven female Hmong villagers under the direction of the village elder so that he will, in the guise of Yeh Ming, the thousand year old shaman with whom he shares his body, exorcise the headmans daughter, whose soul is possessed by a demon, and lift the curse of the pogo stick.
As there were no longer any records, the Hmong could
not even tell when they actually misplaced their history.
The event had deleted itself. But the oral legend that was
passed on unreliably like a whisper from China would
have them believe the following:
The elders of the Hmong tribes had gathered to lead the great exodus. For countless centuries, their people had been victimized by the mandarins. With no more will to fight, the time had come to flee. Traditional nomads, the Hmong had few valuable possessions to carry. They would lead their animals and build new homes when they reached the promised lands to the south. But there was one artifact that belonged to all the Hmong. It was the sacred scroll that contained their written language, legends, and myths of ancestors in a sunless, ice-covered land, and, most importantly, the map of how to reach their nirvana: the Land of the Dead in the Otherworld.
With great ceremony, the scroll was removed from its ...
Just scanning the chapter titles, with titles such as "How to Blow Up a Coroner", "Shots from the Grassy Knoll", and "Cashews Make Me Fart", should have been my first clue that this would not be your usual whodunit. Abstaining from cashews for fear of flatulence saves the life of one of Siri's staff after a gift-wrapped box of nuts arrives for Dr Siri. But it leads to the demise of the two American auditors who indulge as they crunch numbers in Dr. Siri's office, which is just another of Cotterill's humorous asides - who hasn't wanted to kill an auditor?
In spite of what seems nonsensical, there are many gems in the book (which reminds me of Alexander McCall's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series). (Reviewed by Vy Armour).
A Brief History of Laos
The Lao People's Democratic Republic, commonly known as Laos (sounds like 'louse') is located in South-East Asia where it is sandwiched by Vietnam on the East and Thailand on the West. It shares its northern border with China and Burma/Myanmar, and its southern border with Cambodia (map). It's population is about 6.6 million people.
Laotian are believed to be descendents of Thai tribes from the 13th century. In the mid-14th century a powerful kingdom was founded by Fa Ngoun (1353-73) who is credited with the introduction of Buddhism to the area. In 1707 internal dissent split the country into two kingdoms (upper northern and lower southern). Vientiane, the setting of the novel is...
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