Seven female Hmong villagers (who are considered hostile barbarians) kidnap Dr. Siri on orders from the village elder, who hopes that Yeh Ming, the thousand-year-old shaman who shares the doctor's body, will consent to exorcise the headman's daughter. The elder fears that his daughter's soul has been possessed by a demon due to the curse of a mysterious Western artifact. (A pogo stick, hahaha.) Dr. Siri, at 73, seems like the unlikeliest of detectives but he is sprightly, lovable, very intelligent, and he doesn't let his age stop him from doing anything. He unexpectedly finds civility and respect in the Hmong ancient culture, which was one of my favorite parts of the book. As always, I enjoyed the good balance between comedy and seriousness. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the alternate storyline involving Madame Daeng, Nurse Dtui, Phosy, and Civilai nearly as much, which brought my rating down from the ratings I had given the previous books.
I loved the first two books in the series, but had to skim the third as there was too much pain in it. The 4th was OK, if odd. Finally, in the 5th book, the author is starting to address what the Lao government did to the Hmong people in the 1970's and 1980's. I'm only a 4th of the way through, so I don't know if Cotterill is going to tell about the years-long massacres which killed thousands of innocent Hmong children, women, and men. I rather doubt he will, which is too bad, because most readers probably don't know about it. Some of the Hmong were dragged by the CIA into siding with the U.S. after helping to rescue downed US pilots. That got them targeted for "extermination" by the Pathet Lao which, along with the Vietnamese communists, did a fairly thorough job of it. I was an ESL teacher in northern California in the 1980's, and most of my students were Hmong adults and teenagers, refugees who'd suffered horrors trying to escape Laos by making their way, at night, silently, to the Mekong River so they could float across it to the relative safety of Thailand. If they made it without getting shot, they'd languish in refugee camps for years before finally being allowed to go to a western country. I've been hoping Cotterill would tell their story in his books. It deserves to be told.
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