The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die (2013) is the ninth book in the series to feature ex-field surgeon and coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun in 1970′s Laos. The first book in the series is The Coroner’s Lunch which was published in 2004. I’ve read them all. Some books are better than others but they all have entertained me. In this latest release, the story was sadly disappointing due to the lack of plotting and not very much sustained suspense. There is a stark contrast between the first few books in the series versus the last two books. I acknowledge that not every book will be a winner in an ongoing series and my opinion is just that: an opinion. Outside of that this book has a lot of positive reviews.
Most of my reading experience was turning the pages and not feeling the least bit excited or curious about what will happen next. It’s good to catch up with the characters but as the story progressed they are used way too often as filler for the threadbare plotting.
In this entry, national coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun, is into his third week of retirement from the Mahosot Hospital when he’s asked to go on a ghost hunt. The Minister of Agriculture’s brother was killed during some covert military operation and his spirit isn’t rested, according to the Minister’s Vietnamese wife. The location of his body is difficult to find because he worked undercover, “organizing guerrilla attacks on royalist held bases.” So, the minister’s wife hires a witch to help them locate his body.
Meanwhile, noodle shop owner, Madame Daeng, writes her biography about how she began as a freedom fighter against the French in the 1940′s. However, someone from her past comes looking for her and wants to do her harm turning this novel into a mystery of revenge. The title of this book is about a character who was shot in the head and believed to be dead but isn’t. This is where the supernatural comes in and the series is loaded with these elements. Dr. Siri is a man of science but he is also a shaman who can see spirits but he can’t communicate with them. Most of these spirits are victims of murder and linger around until justice is served.
This is the weakest story in the series for me and I say that because the plot was threadbare, the story moved at a snail’s pace after a while and at 50% I was ready to close the book. What the novel continues to do right is provide readers with a sense of time and place and strong characters. Provide interesting information about Lao culture and politics. The trademark humor towards the socialist regime’s ideology and policy is still going strong but lack of plot made this a yawning read. All of the major characters are back including Crazy Rajid. There’s even a nod to Stieg Larsson in here, with a minor character named Lars Stiegsson. All in all, flat, disappointing read. I admit to wanting to skim Daeng’s biography which was written interspersed here and there in all italics. I’m not a fan of flashbacks and the technique used in here with all italics made it especially skim worthy. What grade to give? Not sure if I should give one since after reading 60%, I fast forwarded to the end so I could finish it and move to the next book.