Colin Cotterill — I Shot the Buddha

I reviewed another of Cotterill’s novels in 2012, one of my first posts. He still holds my interest throughout. The combination of humor, fantasy, and mystery set in Laos in the late 70’s sounds weird (and it is).

Dr. Siri Paibour is a retired coroner. He and his wife, Madam Daeng, love a good mystery. There are three mysteries, three plots in this story. One takes Siri and Daeng to Thailand, accompanying a Buddhist monk. Then there is the disappearance of Buddhist monk Noo, who Siri leaves in the hands of police officer and friend, Phosy. Another mystery concerns a claim for a new Buddha. Civilai, a retired Lao official and another of Siri’s friends, is asked to investigate.

The book is filled with spirits, good and evil. There is a village populated by psychics and a town practicing the Buddhist version of “Black Mass.” All of this is contained in a good plot and told with a sense of the absurd.

This is the last book in the Dr. Siri series. If you haven’t read any of them, you might want to start at the beginning with The Coroner’s Lunch, which was republished in 2015. Or you can jump in anywhere and enjoy.

Liz Kay — Monsters: A Love Story

I don’t read romance novels…or I should say, I usually don’t read romance novels. I’m not sure why I picked this one up to read. Look at the name; it’s obviously a romance. But that name was probably why I brought it home with me.

Why don’t I read romance? Mostly because I like surprises. Apparently romance readers like the stories because they know what to expect and they like happy endings. I like stories with twists and turns and surprise endings. I know some people swear that romance stories are not written to formula, but one thing you can count on is the happy ending. The stories may differ; the characters (heroine and hero in romance) may have different personalities in each one; the plots or subplots can be interesting. But to me the main story is heroine meets hero, heroine is attracted to hero and hero to heroine, conflict—conflict—conflict, heroine and hero end up together in the end. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget, both heroine and hero are supposed to grow and become better people by the end.

Monsters: A Love Story is a good read, even if it does follow the formula. Liz Kay writes interesting complex characters and the story is fun. Stacy Lane is a recently widowed mother of two boys and a poet who has published a novel-in-verse. Tommy DeMarco is an actor and movie producer who has read her book and loved it. He wants to turn it into a movie. The story bounces back and forth between calm, suburban Omaha and wild, partying Hollywood. Tommy is laid-back and has no boundaries. Stacey is nothing but boundaries.

I enjoyed the story, although I did get a bit aggravated towards the end with the two main characters not getting together. I guess that’s part of the romance genre. If you don’t approve of rough language, don’t read this book. (It doesn’t bother me.) You can decide if either Stacey or Tommy (or both) are the monsters.

Steven Rowley — Lily and the Octopus

If you like quirky stories and love dogs, you will enjoy this book. It is silly and sad, touches your heart, and makes you laugh.

Lilly is Ted Flask’s aging dachshund—his closest friend. He holds conversations with her. One day he sees an “octopus” on her head. Not facing reality, he tries to find ways to rid Lily of the octopus. He even talks to the creature attached to his dog’s head. At one point in the book, Ted goes off on a fantasy trip with Lily. They take a ship out into the ocean to defeat the enemy in his own territory.

This is Rowley’s first novel, and I hope not his last. He captures the emotions of his protagonist (and the reader).