Curse of the Pogo Stick
Soho, Aug 2008, $24.00
In the late 1970s the Laotian National Coroner seventy-three years old Dr. Siri Paiboun is attending some governmental Communist Party function (waste of time if you ask him) in the north. Meanwhile back in the capital Vientiane a corpse of a soldier booby trapped with grenades is anonymously dropped off at the morgue. Only the fast and capable work of Paibourn’s assistant Nurse Dtui avoids a tragedy from happening.
Meanwhile Paibourn looks forward to getting home to spend time with his fiancée Madame Daeng and even time in the morgue, which is better than attending these inane officious official officialdoms. Instead the female members of the Hmong tribe abduct Dr. Siri as they need his help; or at least of the millennium old shaman Yeh Ming is to perform an exorcism on the tribal chief’s daughter demonically possessed due to an evil pogo stick placed on an alter.
CURSE OF THE POGO STICK is a solid historical mystery that contains two subplots, in which both contain humor inside serious situations that brings to life 1977-78 Laos. The Vientiane investigation is superbly written as Nurse Dtui cleverly leads the inquiry into who would use a dead soldier to kills others. However, Colin Cotterill’s insight into the suppressed Hmong people, caught between the violent Communist regime and Nixon’s just completed a few years ago secret war, is what makes this a great entry as neither side cares what happened to these expendable mountain pawns. The insight into the Hmong culture and their “collateral damage” plight supersede the whodunit.