Disco for the Departed (Dr. Siri Paiboun Series #3)

Disco for the Departed (Dr. Siri Paiboun Series #3)

by Colin Cotterill


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781569474648
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/01/2007
Series: Dr. Siri Paiboun Series , #3
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 171,824
Product dimensions: 4.98(w) x 7.48(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Colin Cotterill is the Dilys Award-winning author of nine books in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series: The Coroner's Lunch, Thirty-Three Teeth, Disco for the Departed, Anarchy and Old Dogs, Curse of the Pogo Stick, The Merry Misogynist, Love Songs from a Shallow Grave, and Slash & Burn, and The Woman Who Wouldn't Die. He lives in Chumphon, Thailand, with his wife and five deranged dogs.

Read an Excerpt

Guesthouse Number One

Dr. Siri lay beneath the grimy mesh of the mosquito net, watching the lizard’s third attempt. Twice, the small gray creature had scurried up the wall and ventured out across the ceiling. On both occasions, the unthinkable had happened. The animal had lost its grip and come plummeting down with a splat onto the bare concrete of the guesthouse floor. For a house lizard this was the equivalent of a man coming unstuck from the ground and falling up with a crash onto the ceiling. Siri could see the stunned confusion on its little puckered face. It looked around to get its bearings, then headed once more for the ­wall.

For over a month, Dr. Siri Paiboun, the national coroner, had been wondering whether his new incarnation might be disruptive to the natural laws of animal behavior. The peculiarities could have started before, but it wasn’t until the mongrel from the ice works began to build a nest in his front yard that he took any notice. She somehow managed to drag old car seats and cement sacks through his front gate and mold them into a very ­uncomfortable-­looking roost. And there she sat patiently, day after day, as if waiting for an unlikely egg. A week later, the paddy mice at the back of the compound formed what could only be described as a gang and started terrorizing his neighbor’s cat. This morning, as he was leaving his house in Vientiane for the trip ­up-­country, he’d looked back to see a hen on his roof. As there was no sign of a ladder, he had to assume the thing had flown up there. And now the lizard. Even if these were all coincidences, it was still very odd. Ever since Siri had discovered his shaman ancestry, a lot of strange things had happened in his ­life.

He worked the nail of his pinky finger around the inside of his mouth, counting his teeth once again. It was a habit he’d fallen into a few months earlier when he’d found out he was different. All ­there – all ­thirty-three of them. The same number of teeth as old Prince Phetsarat, the magician; the same number as some of the most respected shamans in the region; the same number as the Lord Buddha himself. Siri was in hallowed company. But even though he had the right number of teeth, he hadn’t yet taken control of his ­abilities.

Only recently, Siri had learned that he hosted the spirit of an ancient Hmong shaman – Yeh Ming. Until then, he’d always thought the contact he’d had with departed souls in his dreams was some kind of mental illness. He hadn’t bothered to try to interpret their messages, hadn’t even realized that the spirits in his dreams were leaving clues to the causes of their deaths. All that had changed the previous year. Yeh Ming had become more active – woken up, you might ­say – and had drawn the attention of the malevolent spirits of the forest. These evil spirits, these Phibob, were gunning for Siri’s ancestor, and as Siri was his host, Siri was suddenly in the line of fire. Supernatural fireworks were spilling over into his ­life.

Very little could really shock the old surgeon anymore, but he never ceased to be amused by the mysterious events happening around him. His own life seemed to grow more fascinating every day. While others his age had begun to wind down like clocks as they tottered into a frail twilight, Siri had been reborn into a period in which fantasy and reality were interchangeable. Every day was a kick. He felt more alive than ever. If this were truly some kind of senile insanity, it was one he was secretly enjoying: one he was in no hurry to recover ­from.

That May, Siri had arrived at his ­seventy-­third birthday, still as sturdy as a jungle boar. His lungs let him down from time to time but his muscles and his mind were as taut as they’d been in his thirties. His head boasted a shock of thick white hair and his likeable face with its haunting green eyes still drew flirtatious smiles from women half his age. None of his friends could imagine Dr. Siri Paiboun running out of steam for a long while ­yet.

The mosquito-­net-­covered bunk bed in which Siri lay watching the lizard, stood on the floor of Party Guesthouse Number One in the cool northeast of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos; the year was 1977. “Guesthouse” was hardly an appropriate name for the ­two-­story building designed by Vietnamese rectangulists a few years earlier. It looked nothing like a house, and its inmates were certainly not guests. It was mostly inhabited by those who had sinned, ideologically, against Party dictates. Here, the village heads, government officials, and army officers of the old Royalist regime were lulled into believing they had been invited for a holiday in the mountains of Huaphan province, an educational visit to revolutionary ­headquarters.

Earlier that evening, Siri and Nurse Dtui had sat drinking coffee with a group of men from the south who once held senior ranks in the Royalist police force. They still assumed they were merely attending a seminar and would soon return to Vientiane with a new, enlightened understanding of the ­Marxist-­Leninist system. The mood had been jolly as they sat on the ­ground-­floor veranda on uncomfortable red vinyl chairs. The men had spent their first afternoon doing “getting to know you” activities and still wore their paper name tags stapled to the tops of their shirt pockets. Each man’s name was followed by the word “officer,” then a number. As if unwilling to break rank, they’d sat in numerical order around their small circle of ­chairs.

Siri had listened to them boast of their good fortune in seeing a part of the country that was as alien to these urbanites as any foreign land. They spoke of the locals as a tourist would of Africans or peculiar Europeans. Little did they know their brief excursion to the provinces would likely extend to months; in some cases, years. Little did they know they were to be trucked from the comparative luxury of the guesthouse to a site some eighty kilometers away near Sop Hao on the Vietnamese border.

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Disco for the Departed 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1977 in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, seventy-three years old National Coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun accompanied by Nurse Dtui leave Vientiane on an educational trek in the isolated mountainous region. However, upon arrival at Vieng Xai, Siri and Dtui are escorted to a cave where the current Communist President of the country resided before a coup brought him into power. Inside is an arm sticking out of a cement block. At Kilometer 8 Hospital, a Castro loaner Cuban Dr. Santiago meets Siri and Dtui in between explaining what he knows about the victim, the Cuban and the nurse with the Coroner as the depressed referee battle in a contest of wits and words for whom is the Communist champion killjoy. As the trio uncovers clues, the case takes strange spins with sacrificial rituals covered by official red tape making it difficult to follow leads that Siri obtains with his eerie talent of discussing the investigation with the dead to the backdrop of even weirder western disco music. --- The third Paiboun coroner¿s investigation is a superb look at late 1970s Laos where ancient Buddhist rituals and bureaucratic Communist rituals sit side by side. The story line is action-packed, but the cast make the historical whodunit a treat. Besides the terrific lead trio, the support characters add depth to the feel that the audience is in deed in a remote part of Laos just after the Viet Nam War ended. Fans who appreciate something different in their police procedurals will want to read the intelligent DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED and its two previous tales (see THE CORONER¿S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH). --- Harriet Klausner
msf59 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Dr. Siri Paiboun, our favorite Laotian coroner returns. It¿s 1977 and this time he is summoned to northern Laos, to investigate a body, buried in cement and joining him on this trip is his faithful nurse Dtui. The mystery in this story, however well it unravels, is secondary to these wonderful characters. They are smart and witty and oh so engaging.There is also just the right amount of eastern mysticism , with Siri having the gift of ¿vision¿ and being able to speak with the dearly departed. This leads to one of my absolute favorite scenes, involving Siri, a shuttered disco and the discovery of dance. I still break into a smile thinking about it.If you haven¿t tried this series, do yourself a big favor and track these books down.BTW- I did not know you could eat bats and they taste like duck!
Joycepa on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Disco for the DepartedColin Cotterill3rd in the Dr. Siri Paiboun, national coroner of the Democratic People¿s Republic of Laos series.Dr. Siri is called to investigate the death of a man whose arm rises from a concrete pathway in front of the Laotian president¿s house in Vieng Shai in Huaphan province where the leadership of the Pathet Lao hid for years while carrying on their war against the French colonialists and their Royalist puppets. Besides the humor and the interesting (if nothing terribly special) murders Dr. Siri investigates, one of the best parts of this series is the information about the early years of the communist government in laos--and, incidentally, about its neighboring state of Thailand as well. In this book, Cotterill introduces us to the role Cuba played in Laos in those years. And, as always, that of Vietnam.Naturally, Dr. Siri¿s role as reluctant host to a thousand year-old Hmong shaman plays a part.What gives a special flavor to this installment is the epic journey of Mr Geung, Siri¿s assistant who has Down¿s Syndrome, who, forced against his will to leave the morgue in Vientiane, struggles to keep his promise to Dr. Siri ¿to look after the morgue¿ in Siri¿s absence.Cotterill is excellent in using a zany sense of humor to bring alive Siri and his friends, and an equally excellent job of describing Laos, its people, its culture, and the way ordinary folks get along under difficult circumstances.The title of the book? Read it to see.Highly recommended.
omphalos02 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Dr. Siri returns for a third installment of murder and Cotterill's uniquely witty mayhem in 70's Laos. He and nurse Dtui are called to the northeast to examine a body that has been mummified in a block of concrete. Rather cleverly plotted, and a real treat to read.
robbintg on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This is the latest in the best mystery series I've read in a long time. The author deftly weaves a story of communism/capitalism, the living/spirits, and one man who must make sense of it all.
jnwelch on LibraryThing 20 days ago
"His own life seemed to grown more fascinating every day. While others his age had begun to wind down like clocks as they tottered into a frail twilight, Siri had been reborn into a period in which fantasy and reality were interchangeable. Every day was a kick. He felt more alive than ever. If this were truly some kind of senile insanity, it was one he was secretly enjoying: one he was in no hurry to recover from."Readers of Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri mystery series will not-so-secretly enjoy another outing with the vibrant doctor in the series' third entry, Disco for the Departed. Our hero is the national coroner in Laos in the 1970s, but also may be inhabited by the spirit of a thousand year old shaman, and he is regularly visited by spirits, including ones who enjoy dancing to 70s era American disco music. He is presented with an unusual puzzle, a missing Vietnamese girl and two Cuban men helping at a local hospital who may have been killed. While solving that he also manages to help save a little girl who'd gone missing, thanks to his understanding of the spirit world.We get more time in this one with favorite characters like Dtui, his assistant at the mortuary who is smart, sarcastic and willing to buck authority, but who also reveres Dr. Siri and his wisdom. She takes a lead role in solving the mystery, and is amorously pursued by a rising Socialist functionary who is strikingly concerned with having the paperwork in proper order should she accede to his advances. Down syndrome-affected Mr. Geung has to endure an epic journey as he is "reallocated" to a remote location from which he is determined to return to assist Dtui and the doctor. His encounters become almost Quixote-esque as he is misunderstood and misunderstands, but is buoyed throughout by his inner goodness and acquired wisdom.One of the treats in reading this series is the cynical humor threaded through each book. When one character unknowingly wanders toward a hungry tiger's lair, "it was as if she'd ordered room service and it was delivering itself." When phonecalling his influential Socialist friend Civilai, Siri identifies himself as "the Empress Dowager of China." Civilai questions the awful connection, saying, "You sound like you're standing in a tub of lard." Siri's response, "Yes. It's my new hobby. Did you miss me?"The mystery is solved, Mr. Geung's reallocation is scathingly rectified, and Dtui continues her upward arc as her multiple talents begin to be recognized. Like others, I'll quickly be tuning in to the next episode in the fascinating world of Dr. Siri.
RBeffa on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This is the fourth book featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun and his associates that I have read, although it is the third in the series. This one is set in Laos in 1977 and Dr. Siri is 73 years old and still is the appointed National Coroner of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. He is a surgeon by training and has the job since he was apparently the only one qualified for it after the revolution when most medical staff had fled the country. He wanted nothing to do with it when the series started - he had fought for the revolution and wanted to finally retire. Now as the book begins we find him invigorated from it, and as he describes it: "Every day was a kick. He felt more alive than ever."I enjoyed this book just like the other three I have read, but maybe a little more. I think it is my favorite so far. The focus in this novel is different. We have a good mystery set in an exotic location and we learn more about the culture of Laos as well as Dr. Siri, Nurse Dtui and assistant Geung. Mr. Geung gets a lot more focus this time and really has an adventure, rather scary at times. Nurse Dtui also has an extended sequence away from Dr. Siri. Something occurred to me while reading this, and that is that the characters are becoming so well defined that they seem like they were real people who have lived through the times and stories in these books. That is quite an accomplishment for a writer and something that I as a reader find rare and can really appreciate. I really care about these characters.This is a fun mystery series. Recommended. I listened to part of this novel at a local library while I read along. It was from Blackstone Audio and read by Clive Chafer. He is a very good narrator and I found the pronunciations of the various names of people and places interesting as well.
mamzel on LibraryThing 20 days ago
The third book of the series has the three friends; Dr. Siri, Dtui, and Mr.Geung heading off into different directions. Dr. Siri goes to investigate a body discovered when a concrete path is opened and a mummified arm appears. Siri's boss tries to get rid of Geung by reallocating him in Siri's absence. He greatly underestimates Geung's loyalty. Dtui gets a marriage proposal.
-Eva- on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Dr. Siri Paiboun and Nurse Dtui are called away to distant Vieng Xai to investigate a mummified arm found protruding from a cement block and hopefully discover to whom the arm and the rest of its body belongs. The descriptions of the landscape, the bureaucratic government, the spirit-permeated atmosphere, and the charming characters make this book another great installment in a great series. The characters are getting more and more fleshed out as well and both Dtui and Geung get to have adventures of their own, separate from Dr. Siri. The stakes are high (particularly Geung's) and the mummy mystery is as intriguing as they come, as long as you don't mind that the supernatural will have a hand in solving the puzzle.
smik on LibraryThing 20 days ago
The year is 1977 and Laos is about to sign a big much publicised treaty with Vietnam in just a few days time. Dr Siri Paiboun, Laos' 73 year old rather reluctant coroner, has been summoned to revolutionary headquarters in the north east where the treaty is to be signed because, rather inconveniently, a mummified arm is protruding from a concrete path in the President's compound.Dr Siri and his assistant Nurse Dtui are normally to be found running the morgue at Mahosot hospital in Vientiane. They have come away leaving their Downs Syndrome assistant Mr Geung in charge of the morgue. Recently Dr Siri has discovered that he hosts the spirit of an ancient Hmong shaman called Yeh Ming. The discovery has helped to explain his ability to communicate with the souls of the departed, but it does mean there are times when Siri has a problem distinguishing the supernatural from reality. On the other hand his supernatural "abilities" often play a far greater role in solving mysteries than his coronial skills do.DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED is a rather quirky mixture of sleuthing and the supernatural, together with gobbets of Laotian culture and Communist history. Dr Siri's own acceptance of his shamanism means that the Western reader who would perhaps not normally accept this view of the world have no problem in accepting its role. Read more.This is the third in this delightful but different series, the other two titles being THE CORONER'S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH. There is just enough of the back-story from the two earlier novels recounted in DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED, although both of the other titles are also worth looking for.Titles to look for in the Dr. Siri seriesTHE CORONER'S LUNCH (2004)THIRTY THREE TEETH (2005)DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED (2006)ANARCHY & OLD DOGS (2007)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Mystery
Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
“Disco for the Departed” is author Colin Cotterill’s 3rd visit to Dr. Siri Paiboun. At this point in his long life, Dr. Siri thought he’d be enjoying a light workload or even retirement, instead of struggling to support the post-Vietnam war People’s Democrating Republic of Laos’ government by providing coroner services. Further complicating his “golden years” is that the ghosts of the dead can occasionally communicate with Dr. Siri – and sometimes they seem insistent while other times they seem vague. There are two plots running through this book. First, preparations for a governmental celebration in the mountains near the border are interrupted by the discovery of an arm – without any body connected – in concrete at the former presidential palace. Dr. Paiboun must not only solve the mystery of who this person was and why he or she died, but also walk a tightrope of political considerations. Meanwhile, many of the aforementioned spirits congregate nightly in an event which gives the book its title. In a concurrent plot, Geung, the developmentally challenged morgue assistant, has been placed in charge of keeping the place tidy while the good doctor is away. Unfortunately, he is visited and informed that he has been drafted into the military and must leave immediately. Geung declines because he made a commitment to the absent Dr. Siri, but he is not given a choice – until he is able to escape his captors and begins a long adventuresome trek back to the morgue. Cotterill’s sardonic view of governments, governmental regulations and red tape, and the functionaries and leaders who inhabit this world, oozes through each paragraph of the book. This cynicism might overpower the work if it weren’t for the basic goodness and common sense of Siri, Geung, and previously unmentioned Nurse Dtui. The reader is blessed with the ability to rise above any situation and laugh along with the protagonists, rather than having to dwell in the procedural mire of the new Communist regime. It is always a joy to hang out with Siri. RATING: 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 stars where applicable.
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