Curse of the Pogo Stick

Cotterill, Colin. Curse of the Pogo Stick. New York: Soho, 2008.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day.

Here’s what we know about Dr. Siri Paiboun. He is a 73 year old coroner in the village of Vientiane, Laos. He has two loyal sidekicks, Nurse Dtui (now three months pregnant) and helper Mr. Geung. When we last left Dr. Siri he had proposed to Madame Daeng and she accepted so now he has a girlfriend to add to the mix. He is still plagued by the spirit of a thousand-year-old shaman, Yeh Ming and it’s this spirit that gets Siri into his trouble this time. He is kidnapped by a group of women Hmong villagers thinking Yeh Ming can exorcise the head tribesman’s daughter. She appears to be pregnant with twins by a demon. The title of the book comes from the Hmong belief that a pogo stick, sent in a relief package, was the root of evil.
Meanwhile Nurse Dtui and Phosy search for the Lizard, a woman hellbent on killing Dr. Siri.
One of the best things about Cotterill’s writing (besides the humor) is that way he subtly reminds the readers where they are at in the saga. Like a television series voice over recap “previously on Badge of Justice…” before the new episode. In this case, Siri’s best friend was found to be a traitor in the last installment. When Madame Daeng & Nurse Dtui pay him a visit in Curse his new role in the story makes sense.

Line I liked, “It was rather sad that his last memory on earth might have been how to encourage bulls to increase their semen count” (p 37).

Book trivia: This is anotherĀ  really short book. Expect to finish it in a weekend.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Laos” (p 128).


I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:

  • Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
  • Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
  • Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
  • Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.

August Behind Me

August was…the final push to move back into the new library space. People who used to work there won’t recognize it. August was also the finishing of the deck and patio. It looks awesome. Sidelined by injury I only ran 60.86 miles this month. But. But! But, here are the books:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell (AB)
  • Lost City of Z by David Grann
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich
  • ADDED: Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • ADDED: Dorothy Gutzeit: Be True and Serve by Dorothy Gutzeit (ER)

My favorite was Dogs of Riga followed by Anarchy and Old Dogs.

Anarchy and Old Dogs

Cotterill, Colin. Anarchy and Old Dogs. New York: Soho, 2007.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. This is book four.

The opening scene sets the stage for the mystery: Dr. Buagaew, a retired blind dentist, has been run down by a logging truck after picking up a mysterious letter from the post office. Dr. Siri Paibaum, now 73 years old and still described as Laos’s reluctant coroner, must figure out who was Buagaew and why had he a letter written in invisible ink in his pocket when he died? Another death is far more disturbing. A ten year old boy is found dead in a river. He has two different rates of decomposition and his death doesn’t look accidental. Who would have wanted this boy dead and why?
For the most part, all of Siri’s friends are in Anarchy and Old Dogs except this timeĀ  Mr. Geung is recovering from his ordeal in Disco and is only brought up in mention at the beginning and end. Dtui’s mother has died and best friend Civilai has a new secret.

An element of Cotterill’s writing that makes the Dr. Siri series so interesting is his “cross -contamination” of characters. Siri was inspired by Inspector Maigret who is a character of mysteries written by Georges Simeon.

Cotterill also includes a running commentary on the political climate. Laos has reached a point where the Communism government has become increasingly oppressive. Oppressive to the point that “even the death of livestock, even from natural causes, had to be accounted for in writing” (p 3).

Other quotes I thought worth mentioning, “But he felt bad about pulling out the wrong teeth and that” (p 31), ” When you are drinking with a corpse there is no such thing as irreverence” (p 38) and “As many counterrevolutionaries would have you know, when in the midst of diverting a national crisis, there is always the case for taking a little time off for tourism” (p 139).

Author fact: Cotterill has taught in Australia.

Book trivia: Anarchy is the fourth book in the Dr. Siri series. I said that already, but that’s all I got on this one.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Laos” (p 128).

August Ahead

My obsession with moving rocks has come to an end now that the big boys are playing in the backyard. This hopefully means I’ll scale back to just two fanatical activities: running and reading. Or reading and running. I wonder who will win out? I am in the last month of training before the half marathon, but here are the books planned for August:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. I have been able to read other books in the series in one to two days.
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell – in honor of July being one of the best times to visit Sweden (listening as an audio book).
  • Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon by David Grann in honor of August being the driest month in the Amazon.
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann in honor of August being Aviation month.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in honor of Baldwin’s birth month (print & AB).
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch in honor of Busch’s birth month (short stories).
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich in honor of Columbia’s independence.

PS – on the eve of posting this I ran 7.93 miles. Why the .93? My calf/Achilles started to give me grief so I had to stop. Now I wonder if the running has a chance to catch the books?

Just July

July was a nutty month. Lots of music: Phish three times, Warren Haynes at Tanglewood, Dead and Company twice, and Coldplay. (August is only Pearl Jam and Mieka Pauley.) We made it up to Monhegan for a week and down to CT twice. And! And. And, I moved a lot of rocks (don’t ask). For the books it was:

  • Milk in my Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey
  • Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (AB)
  • The Last Battle by Ryan Cornelius
  • Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
  • 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

I think, once I got used to Dickey’s style, I grew to like Milk but my favorite by far was The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. Is it a movie? Because if it isn’t, it should be. I said that in the review as well.

Full disclosure: I had Lost Upland on my list as well. I simply ran out of time and couldn’t get to it. I’m okay with seven books for the month.

Disco for the Departed

Cotterill, Colin. Disco for the Departed New York: Soho Press, 2006.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Rocket Day (May).

Dr. Siri is back! We are in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos and the year is 1977. In this third installment of our reluctant yet humorous coroner we learn more about his life as a shaman, hosting the spirit of Hmong Yeh Ming and how, despite being 73 years of age, Siri grows younger everyday. This time Dr. Siri is called to a small mountain town to solve the mystery of a Cuban buried alive in concrete. While there he is inhabited by a spirit who loves to dance and keeps taking Siri to a disco (hence the title). Nurse Dtui accompanies Siri into the mountains and has her own little romance. We also learn more about Siri’s assistant, Geung Watajak. Interestingly enough, Disco backs up and explains Geung’s arrival into Dr. Siri’s life as morgue assistant which was a nice surprise. I appreciate the building of supporting characters.

Quotes I’d like to quote, “She became renown for wild solo rantings and spontaneous acts of flashing” (p 13), “Socialism was having a negative effect on the weather” (p 79) and one more, “Siri sat alone in the guesthouse restaurant and stared into a mug of coffee so thick you could lose an anchor in it” (p 150).

Book trivia: Like the other Cotterill books before it, Disco for the Departed was a quick read. I read it in one day.

BookLust Twist: obviously from Book Lust to Go in the chapter simply called “Laos” (p 128).