Thirty-Three Teeth (Dr. Siri Paiboun Series #2)

( 13 )

Overview

Praise for Thirty-Three Teeth:

“Paiboun’s droll wit and Cotterill’s engaging plot twists keep things energetic; the rather grisly murders are offset by comedy…. The elegant, elderly Paiboun seems an unlikely vehicle to carry a series … but he does so with charm and aplomb.”—Entertainment Weekly

“The series neatly manages to include an engrossing mystery—political and folk history and a lot of sly satire.”—Day ...

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Thirty-Three Teeth

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Overview

Praise for Thirty-Three Teeth:

“Paiboun’s droll wit and Cotterill’s engaging plot twists keep things energetic; the rather grisly murders are offset by comedy…. The elegant, elderly Paiboun seems an unlikely vehicle to carry a series … but he does so with charm and aplomb.”—Entertainment Weekly

“The series neatly manages to include an engrossing mystery—political and folk history and a lot of sly satire.”—Day to Day, NPR

“Keeps a perfect balance between the modern mysteries of forensic science and the ancient secrets of the spirit world.”—The New York Times Book Review

Feisty Dr. Siri Paiboun is no respecter of persons or Party; at his age he feels he can afford to be independent. In this, the second novel in the series, he travels to Luang Prabang where he communes with the deposed king who is resigned to his fate: it was predicted long ago. And he attends a conference of shamans called by the Communist Party to deliver an ultimatum to the spirits: obey Party orders or get out. But as a series of mutilated corpses arrives in Dr. Siri’s morgue, and Nurse Dtui is menaced, he must use all his powers—forensic and shamanic—to discover the creature—animal or spirit—that has been slaying the innocent.

Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952. He has taught in Australia, the United States and Japan, and has lived in Thailand, on the Burmese border and in Laos. He lives in Chiang mai in northern Thailand.

For more information, visit www.colincotterill.com 

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Editorial Reviews

Dennis Drabelle
Cotterill, who lives in northern Thailand, is a crack storyteller and an impressive guide to a little-known culture.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Dr. Siri Paiboun of Laos-"reluctant national coroner, confused psychic, [and] disheartened communist"-employs forensic skills and spiritual acumen to solve a series of bizarre killings in Cotterill's quirky, exotic and winning second novel, set in 1977. Could an old escaped bear be mauling Vientiane citizens? Or is it something more mystical-say, a weretiger? When Paiboun is summoned to the capital to identify the nationality of a pair of charred bodies, he quickly flags them as Asians killed in a helicopter crash, and his ability to connect them to the royal family annoys Communist Party leaders. As Paiboun learns of an effort to get the remaining royal family members out of town, he's arrested, accused of damaging government property. But the witness's testimony is questionable, and Paiboun, representing himself in court, escapes this scrape as handily as he's escaped others before. Paiboun's droll wit and Cotterill's engaging plot twists keep things energetic; the rather grisly murders are offset by comedy, including a scene in which a Party member attempts to impose regulations on the spirit world. The elegant, elderly Paiboun seems an unlikely vehicle to carry a series (he debuted in 2004's The Coroner's Lunch), but he does so with charm and aplomb. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The 72-year-old reluctant national coroner of Laos, Dr. Siri Paiboun, finds himself embroiled with a new Communist government, a deposed king, party leaders, and shamans in the follow-up to the debut The Coroner's Lunch. Cotterill lives in Thailand. A six-city author tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An iconoclastic coroner attempts to come to terms with demons from his past while tracking a palpable monster. 1977. In newly Communist Laos, septuagenarian Dr. Siri Paiboun is settling into the job of national coroner, thinking less about retirement and ruffling fewer official feathers than in his first rocky year on the job (The Coroner's Lunch, 2004). He's even mentoring his assistant, an equally quirky young woman named Dtui with an impressive talent for forensic investigation. The diverse array of puzzling cases challenging Siri begins with a pair of corpses from opposite sides of the tracks. But a larger case, perhaps of serial murder, looms as several people suffer fatal animal attacks, presumably by an escaped black mountain bear. Aided by vivid symbolic dreams interspersed throughout the narrative, Siri develops a different theory supported by the nature of the wounds, but the bureaucrats are as slow as ever to believe him. Along the way, Siri visits his sister-in-law's rural home to settle unanswered questions about his dead wife, has a philosophical discussion with Laos' exiled king, observes a Communist conference of shamans and rescues an imperiled Dtui from the brink of death. Siri's second is as entertaining as his debut. Clever chapter titles ("The Randy Russian," "No Spontaneous Fun-by Order") put tongue even further in cheek.
From the Publisher
WINNER OF THE IMBA DILYS AWARD

“The quasi-mystical story keeps a perfect balance between the modern mysteries of forensic science and the ancient secrets of the spirit world as the cranky coroner tries to resolve a politically sensitive case involving the deposed king without riling the authorities.”
The New York Times Book Review

“[An] unpredictable mystery … Thirty-Three Teeth triumphantly braves the tightrope between quirky humour and the surreal macabre … Oddly, moments of would-be silliness emerge instead as tragically funny and magically sublime.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Cotterill is a crack storyteller and an impressive guide to a little-known culture.”
The Washington Post

“A fresh and innovative detective who goes straight to the heart and soul, without any sappy sentiment … A hero unlike any other.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Delightful. A wry, eccentric addition to the genre.”
Booklist (starred review)

“The sights, smells and colours of Laos practically jump off the pages.”
Denver Post

“[Cotterill’s first novel] The Coroner’s Lunch is marvellous. Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s books will love this one.”
–S. J. Rozan, author of Absent Friends

“A quirky, exotic and winning second novel.”
Publishers Weekly

“A detective as distinctive as Maigret or Poirot.”
–Orlando Sentinel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569474297
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/15/2006
  • Series: Dr. Siri Paiboun Series , #2
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 217,882
  • Product dimensions: 7.52 (w) x 5.04 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952. He trained as a teacher and worked in Israel, Australia, the US, and Japan before training teachers in Thailand and on the Burmese border. He wrote and produced a language teaching series for Thai national television and spent several years in Laos. Colin is involved in a number of social projects, many to benefit children. With his wife he set up a book and scholarship program in Laos and runs a small school for the children of Burmese migrants near his home.

All the while Colin continues with his two other passions: cartooning and writing. Since 2000 he has written over fifteen books, including the Dr. Siri crime series set in Laos. Colin lives in Chumphon in the south of Thailand with his wife where he rides his bicycle along the coast, decapitates coconuts, eats a lot of squid, plays with his dogs, and occasionally sits down to write.

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Read an Excerpt

Vientiane, People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, March 1977

The neon hammer and sickle buzzed and flickered into life over the night club of the Lan Xang Hotel. The sun had plummeted mauvely into Thailand across the Mekhong River, and the hotel waitresses were lighting the little lamps that turned the simple sky-blue room into a mysterious nighttime cavern.

In an hour, a large Vietnamese delegation would be offered diversion there by members of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Politburo. They’d be made to watch poor country boys in fur hats do a Lao falling-over version of cossack dancing. They’d be forced to suck semi-fermented rice whiskey from large tubs through long straws until they were dizzy. They’d finally be coerced into embarrassing dances with solid girls in ankle-length skirts and crusty makeup.

And, assuming they survived these delights, they’d be allowed to return to their rooms to sleep. Next day, with heads heavy as pressed rubber, they’d sign their names to documents laying the foundations for the forthcoming Lao/Vietnam Treaty of Friendship, and they probably wouldn’t remember very much about it.

But that was all to come. The understaffed hotel day shift had been replaced by an understaffed night crew. The sweating receptionist was ironing a shirt in the glass office behind her desk. The chambermaid was running a bowl of rice porridge up to a sick guest on the third floor.

Outside, an old guard, in a jacket so large it reached his knees, was locking the back gate that opened onto Sethathirat Road. At night, the gate kept out dogs and the occasional traveler tempted to come into the garden in search of respite from the cruel hot-season nights. An eight-foot wall protected the place as if it were something more special than it was.

Leaves floated in a greasy swimming pool. Obedient flowers stood in well-spaced regiments, better watered than any of the households outside along the street. And then there were the cages. They were solid concrete, so squat that a tall man would have to stoop to see inside. Two were empty. They housed only the spirits of animals temporarily imprisoned there: a monkey replaced by a deer, a peacock taking over the sentence of a wild dog.

But in the grim shadows of the third cage, something wheezed. It moved seldom, only to scratch lethargically at its dry skin. The unchristened black mountain bear was hosed down along with the bougainvilleas and given scraps from the kitchen from time to time. Its fur was patchy and dull, like a carpet in a well-trodden passage. Buddha only knew how the creature had survived for so long in its cramped jail, and the Lord had been banished from the socialist republic some fifteen months hence.

People came in the early evening and at weekends to stand in front of the cage and stare at her. She stared back, although her glazed bloodshot eyes could no longer make out details of the mocking faces. Children laughed and pointed. Brave fathers poked sticks in through the bars, but the black mountain bear no longer appeared to give a damn.

They naturally blamed the old guard the next day. “Too much rice whiskey,” they said. “Slack,” they said. The guard denied it, of course. He swore he’d relocked the cage door. He’d thrown the leftovers from the Vietnamese banquet into the animal’s bowl and locked the cage. He was sure of it. He swore the beast was still in there when he did his rounds at four. He swore he had no idea how it could have gotten out, or where it could have gone. But they sacked him anyway.

After a panicked search of the grounds and the hotel buildings, the manager declared to his staff that the place was safe and it was a problem now for the police. In fact, he didn’t think it would be wise to mention the escape to his guests at all. As far as he was concerned, the problem was over.

But for Vientiane, it had barely started.


Tomb Sweet Tomb

The sun baked everything in the new suburb. Comrade Civilai stepped from the hot black limousine and, without locking the doors, walked up to the concrete mausoleum where they’d put Dr. Siri. The gate and the front door were open, and he could see clear through to the small yard at the back. There was no furniture to interrupt the view.

He kicked off his Sunday sandals and walked into the front room. It was as if the builders and decorators had just left. The walls were still virgin Wattay light-blue, to match the swimming-pool-colored Wattay airport. They were unencumbered by pictures or posters or photographs of heroes of the revolution. No French plaster ducks flew in formation. No clock ticked. If he didn’t know Siri had lived here for a month, he would have guessed this to be a vacant house.

On his way to the back, he passed a small room where piles of clothes told him he was nearing a primitive life form. In the back yard, he discovered it. Dr. Siri Paiboun, reluctant national coroner, confused psychic, disheartened communist, swung gently on a hammock strung between two jackfruit saplings. A larger man would have brought them both down.

In his shadow, Saloop, rescued street dog and lifesaver, drooled onto the hot earth. He looked up with one eye, decided Civilai was too old and bald to be a threat, and returned to his dream.

A month earlier, the yard had been dirt and debris. Today it was a jungle. Siri had gone to great pains to recreate the environment in which he’d spent the latter forty of his seventy-two years. For the past four weekends, he and his trusted morgue colleagues had set off into the outer suburbs and denuded them unashamedly. They’d transported a variety of trees and shrubs back to this humble bunker–the Party’s thanks for his services.

“I do hope I’m not disturbing you,” Civilai said, knowing full well how disturbing he was being. Siri’s eerie green eyes opened slowly to see his best friend leaning over him.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Dr Siri Paiboun strikes again!

    The second installment of Colin Cotterill's amazing Dr Siri Paiboun series, Dr Siri finds himself stepping from a death scene consisting of two dead men on a bicycle to the spirits that roam post Vietnam war Laos to the echos of the former Lao Royalist regime. Since discovering Dr. Siri, once I start one of the books I literally can't put it down. I especially love the descriptions of Laos, the descriptions of the world of a Shaman and the fast paced twists and turns of an amazing series of mysteries. If you are looking for something truly different in a mystery, search no farther. They are absolutely superb. I can't wait for more.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fabulous look at late 1970s Laos

    In Vientiane five months have passed since septuagenarian medical Dr. Siri Paiboun was named by the two year old Communist government as the Lao Peoples¿ Democratic Republic national coroner, a job the widower did not want, but had to accept. His selection was based on two critical criteria; that he is too old to make waves and he is the only doctor left in the country as the Intelligentsia fled in 1975 when the Communists took control. Siri did not want to leave his beloved deceased wife behind in an unattended grave. --- The communist bureaucrats underestimate their coroner who in spite of constant tutorials and harangues, tries to do the right thing. Currently, he and his team look at the murders of two males found near a bike. Dubbed Man A and Man B, the better dressed victim suffered from triplicate syndrome as his fingers are mauve colored, which means government. As he works the case, Siri is named the honorary consul to the spirit world and assigned with shamans to warn the spirits to get with the communist program or leave. He takes both situations seriously while the party hacks look over his shoulders. --- The second Dr. Paiboun investigation is a fabulous look at late 1970s Laos at a time when the royal family lost their ¿kwun¿ enabling the Communists to send the monarch into a gardening career. The story line includes a solid mystery, but what makes this tale and its predecessor (see THE CORONER¿S LUNCH) worth reading is the insight into the complex society focusing on a deep understanding of politics, religion and customs. Fans will appreciate this fine look at Communism with an influential Buddhist tradition. --- Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    Great story! Combines a mystery with humor and paranormal.

    Dr. Siri Paiboun is a great character. When most people are retired, he's taken on a new position; that do national coroner. With the help of has assistants and the ghosts of the people that come thru his morgue, he solves cases with a sly glee. And n his free time he still manages to cause trouble.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2011

    A Good Read!

    Although not as good as the first, this is still a good read. I quite enjoy the characters and having the setting in communist Laos makes everything more interesting. The plot wasn't quite up to 'mystery' standards, but it's okay because you're enjoying the book so much you hardly notice. I will defintely be reading the rest of the series. Well done Colin!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2011

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    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2014

    Great read

    Enjoyed it as much as the first in the series. Looking forward to additional stories in this series. Great character development, I find myself rooting for his staff.

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