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I Shot the Buddha

Cover of I Shot the Buddha

I Shot the Buddha

Dr. Siri Paiboun Series, Book 11
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A fiendishly clever mystery in which Dr. Siri and his friends investigate three interlocking murders—and the ungodly motives behind them
Laos, 1979: Retired coroner Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, have never been able to turn away a misfit. As a result, they share their small Vientiane house with an assortment of homeless people, mendicants, and oddballs. One of these oddballs is Noo, a Buddhist monk, who rides out on his bicycle one day and never comes back, leaving only a cryptic note in the refrigerator: a plea to help a fellow monk escape across the Mekhong River to Thailand.
Naturally, Siri can't turn down the adventure, and soon he and his friends find themselves running afoul of Lao secret service officers and famous spiritualists. Buddhism is a powerful influence on both morals and politics in Southeast Asia. In order to exonerate an innocent man, they will have to figure out who is cloaking terrible misdeeds in religiosity.
From the Hardcover edition.
A fiendishly clever mystery in which Dr. Siri and his friends investigate three interlocking murders—and the ungodly motives behind them
Laos, 1979: Retired coroner Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, have never been able to turn away a misfit. As a result, they share their small Vientiane house with an assortment of homeless people, mendicants, and oddballs. One of these oddballs is Noo, a Buddhist monk, who rides out on his bicycle one day and never comes back, leaving only a cryptic note in the refrigerator: a plea to help a fellow monk escape across the Mekhong River to Thailand.
Naturally, Siri can't turn down the adventure, and soon he and his friends find themselves running afoul of Lao secret service officers and famous spiritualists. Buddhism is a powerful influence on both morals and politics in Southeast Asia. In order to exonerate an innocent man, they will have to figure out who is cloaking terrible misdeeds in religiosity.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book 1
    Goodnight, Ladies

    It was midnight to the second with a full moon overhead when three women were being killed in three separate locations. Had this been the script of a film such a twist of fate would have been the type of cinematic plot device that annoyed Comrades Siri and Civilai immensely. In their book, coincidences came in a close third behind convenient amnesia and the sudden appearance of an identical twin. But this was real life, so there was no argument to be had.


    The first woman died. She was elderly, was in bad health, and was an alcoholic. But it wasn't angina or alcohol that killed her. It was a sledgehammer. For much of her life she'd scratched a living repairing clothing on an old French sewing machine. When her hands weren't shaking she didn't do such a bad job of it, and hers was the only functioning sewing machine for a hundred kilometers. There was a time when she'd divide her income: half for food, half for rice whisky. But she figured rice whisky was rice, right? What was the point of paying twice for rice? She had papayas and bananas growing naturally around her hut, so, although she spent much of her day in the latrine, she decided she got enough nutrition for someone who wasn't expecting to grow. From then on, every kip she made taking up or taking down the hems of phasin skirts was spent on drink.
    And that night, that cloudless full moon night, she lay pickled on the bamboo bench her father had made with his own hands and she fancied she could see Hanuman's face in the moon. And then a shadow fell across it and for a second she saw the only love of her life, then a smile, then a sledgehammer.


    A second woman died. She had bathed from a bucket of rainwater behind her hut and washed her hair with a sachet of the latest Sunsilk shampoo, a free sample from the company. She was still wearing her damp sarong and deciding whether to keep it on and say, "Ooh, you caught me by surprise," or to put on her yellow sundress, the one he'd mentioned made her look sexy in the light of her little wax candle. She'd climbed the bamboo ladder, creaked through the open doorway and across to the wooden potato box where she kept her clothes. She was changing—she'd decided to go for the sundress—when she heard another creak on the balcony. Her dress was only halfway over her head. She struggled to pull it down. Her Vietnamese driver beau had come early, although it was odd she hadn't heard the truck pull off the road.
    "Give me a sec," she said. "I'm half naked. You've spoiled the surprise."
    The footsteps creaked behind her, and she anticipated the feel of his hand on her suety breast. But she hadn't anticipated the knife. From the tiny naked candle flame she could see the glint of the blade. She watched frozen as the tip entered her belly and the hilt twisted left and right the way the samurai killed themselves in the movies she used to love so much before they closed down the last cinema.


    A third woman died. This was obviously a bad night to be a woman. There are illnesses that make you feel like death but are unlikely to dispatch you there. There are illnesses that are unpleasant but not necessarily uncomfortable, yet without the right treatment at the right moment you're gone as quickly as a sparrow in a jet engine. Hepatitis falls into that latter category. You think you've got the flu, a few aches and pains, no energy, so you sleep all day waiting for it to pass. Then you wake up, and you're dead.
    But she'd awoken to see the nice old doctor sitting beside her sleeping mat. He'd given her some pills, and she'd thanked him and fallen back...
About the Author-
  • Colin Cotterill is the author of eleven other 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, Slash and Burn, The Woman Who Wouldn't Die, Six and a Half Deadly Sins, and The Rat-Catchers' Olympics. His fiction has won a Dilys Award and a CWA Dagger in the Library. He lives in Chumphon, Thailand, with his wife and five deranged dogs.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 30, 2016
    In an introductory note, Cotterill warns readers that his highly entertaining 11th novel featuring Laotian coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun (after 2015’s Six and a Half Deadly Sins) is not for those who prefer their “mysteries dull and earthly.” A gripping opening follows, in which three women are murdered in three separate locations over one night in 1979. A flashback to two weeks earlier makes good on Cotterill’s disclaimer. The acerbic Siri and his redoubtable wife, Madam Daeng, who have plenty of experience with the supernatural, attend—and disrupt—a Communist Party seminar condemning spirit worship as part of the regime’s efforts to resolve conflicts between Communism and such faiths as Buddhism and animism. Meanwhile, Noo, a Thai monk whom the doctor has given refuge from the Thai military, vanishes, leaving a note asking Siri to smuggle a fellow monk back to Thailand, a mission that turns out to be connected to the murders of the three women. Cotterill’s subtle humor, coupled with the charm of his leads, will likely trump any discomfort with scenes with supernatural elements, even for readers who disapprove of such in their whodunits.

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I Shot the Buddha
I Shot the Buddha
Dr. Siri Paiboun Series, Book 11
Colin Cotterill
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