The long-awaited follow-up to 2011's Slash & Burn.
In a small Lao village, a very strange thing has happened. A woman was shot and killed in her bed during a burglary; she was given a funeral and everyone in the village saw her body burned. Then, three days later, she was back in her house as if she'd never been dead at all. But now she's clairvoyant, and can speak to the dead. That's why the long-dead brother of a Lao general has enlisted her to help his brother uncover his remains, which have been lost at the bottom of a river for many years.
Lao national coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, are sent along to supervise the excavation. It could be a kind of relaxing vacation for them, maybe, except Siri is obsessed with the pretty undead medium's special abilities, and Madame Daeng might be a little jealous. She doesn't trust the woman for some reason─is her hunch right? What is the group really digging for at the bottom of this remote river on the Thai border? What war secrets are being covered up?
Cotterill has never been better than in this ninth outing for acerbic Dr. Siri Paiboun (after 2011's Slash and Burn), set in Laos in October 1978. A judge who heads the country's public prosecution department asks Siri, who has recently retired as Laos's coroner, to look into a bizarre case. The minister of agriculture's wife has hired Madame Keui a witch dubbed the "used-to-be woman," because she's alive and kicking two months after her corpse was consigned to a funeral pyre to help lay to rest the ghost of the minister's brother, believed to have been killed on a covert op in 1969. Siri, who views the boundary between the natural and the supernatural worlds as porous, soon finds himself in the midst of the most baffling murder case of his career. The action builds to an ingenious resolution. A subplot adds a nice layer of depth to the character of Siri's wife, Madame Daeng.
The best Siri story yet, and that's saying something. Also sets up some interesting possibilities for future installments. Viva Colin Cotterill's Siri and his band of quirky Lao associates.