The simplest thing to say about this book is that if you liked the first four entries in this 1970s-set series about elderly Laotian National Coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun, then you'll like this fifth one. And if you haven't read those (Coroner's Lunch, Thirty-Three Teeth, Disco for the Departed, Anarchy and Old Dogs), go back and read them first, as this book assumes reader knowledge of events from those ones.
The story here involves Dr. Siri's road trip to a useless conference, which leads to his spending some time in a Hmong village. It seems they've got some spiritual troubles and only the legendary shaman that uses Dr. Siri's body as a vessel can lift the titular curse. This allows the author to paint a warm portrait of the Hmong people and give a little lesson in how poorly they've been treated throughout history. Meanwhile, back in Vientiane, Dr. Siri's able assistants narrowly escape being killed by an Royalist adversary from a previous book. Rather than leave it up to the inept police to track down this nefarious villain, Nurse Duti and the gang do some detecting of their own.
As with the other books in the series, the story combines political satire, bawdy humor, cultural history, two whodunnits, and warm affection for the Laotian people in a cozy little mystery. It's full of little touches that are beautifully integrated into the story -- such as the government's replacement of the perfectly functional colonial era refrigeration system for the morgue with a behemoth Soviet-made one whose malfunction inadvertently helps save the lives of Nurse Duti, et al. If you like mysteries with a heart or have an interest in Laos, the series is definitely worth checking out -- I hope it continues well into the future.