Dr Siri Paiboun, the spry seventy-three-year-old reluctant national coroner of Laos, is out of town when a booby-trapped corpse is delivered to the morgue in Vientiane. The lives of visting doctors, the morgue attendant, and Madame Daeng, Dr Siri's fiancée, are saved by the intervention of Nurse Dtui, the doctor's longtime assistant, but it is a near thing. Who is responsible for this outrage?
On his way back from a Communist Party meeting in the north, Dr Siri is kidnapped by seven female Hmong villagers. The village elder had ordered them to bring Siri to him, hoping that Yeh Ming, the thousand-year-old shaman who shares the doctor's body, would consent to exorcise the headman's daughter.