Colin Cotterill’s The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die is one of the best of the Dr. Siri mysteries.
It is two stories intertwined. In 1978, a Laotian official convinces retired Laotian coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun to help him find the body of his wife’s brother.
They enlist the help of the woman who wouldn’t die. According to witnesses, a burglar murdered her. Her friends burned her body on a funeral pyre. Then she showed up alive back in her village. She is clairvoyant.
Siri is quite taken with this woman. He hopes she can help him hear the spirits trying to communicate with him. He is greatly disappointed when he finds the truth behind her story.
Siri, his wife, and several others travel to Pak Lai. Pak Lai is in the Laotian Sanyaburi state across from Vietnam. While they are there, they watch the hilarious annual log canoe races.
At the same time, someone stalks Siri’s wife Madame Daeng. The stalker comes out of Madame Daeng's past. He brutally and unnecessarily kills several people en route to finding her.
The Madame Daeng part of the story ties in with one of the most important events in Laotian history. It also tells us much about Madame Daeng’s history. Madame Daeng is Siri’s second wife. His first wife died. Madame Daeng has a lot to hide.
This story includes the whole cast of characters—Mr. Geung, Nurse Dtui and her new baby Malee, Dtui’s policeman husband Phosy, Crazy Rajid, Siri’s friend Civilai, Siri’s dog Ugly, and others.
One of the strengths of this series is in the way Laotian history comes to life.
As often occurs in the Dr. Siri mysteries, the story ends with unexpected revelations. It ends with murder, too.
Among the closing scenes there is the party to celebrate Auntie Bppo’s impending death. Aunti Bppo is a transgender or transvestite fortune teller who has been one of Siri’s sources of information. She knows, to the minute, when she will die.
The strength of this book is in the characters and the story. Its weakness is in the long explanation of the intricacies of how the story happened. That’s one section near the end of the book. I read that quickly, to say the least.
But overall, I very much enjoyed this book as I have the other books in the series.