Interesting to read the mixed reviews about this book, which I freaking LOVED and blew through in three nights The Tibetan setting is fascinating and beautifully rendered, and I learned an enormous amount about the Buddist religion I also liked that while the Chinese regime is depicted as horrifically brutal as most oppressive regimes are, Pattison has still created sympathetic, human Chinese characters and resisted the easy temptation to reduce the Tibetan vs Chinese stuggle into a cartoonish us against them situation.
Even though I loved this book, I m debating reading the others in the series I think the conclusion of the story was perfect, and I may prefer to leave it as it is.
What a mystery masterpiece I would recommend keeping notes on the different Tibetan sects such as ragyapa s, purbas, and so on plus, the complex Tibetan Buddhism theological elements that define culture and make people act the way they do I got so caught up in the mystery that I quit taking notes and then forgot which sect was responsible for what and had to backtrack to refresh my brain Of course, you readers who don t forget details I hate you won t need any notes That said, this is one heck of a complex story and Pattison pulls it together in an exciting climax that is satisfying and enlightening.
Shan Tao Yun was an investigator for the Ministry of Economy in Beijing before angering the Party when he tried to expose corruption within the Party Now he suffers in a Tibet prison with fellow monks He adopted their religion that helps him not only survive the horrors of prison life, but has given him friends in unlikely places When the work crew find the corpse of a headless man, Shan s unique skills learned in Beijing are discovered by Colonel Tan who pulls him from prison temporarily to investigate the murder Tan is a hot tempered, ruthless man who does not care about the truth at first, but who finds his behavior changing as he deals with Shan, the Tibetan monks, and the investigation.
Shan s mantra is to seek the truth no matter what the consequences a rare trait in a society that has experienced the revolution of Communism and the baggage that goes with it such as suppression of truth, dissidents, and Tibetan culture The silk scarf rising on an updraft at the start of the novel symbolizes the complex China Tibet struggle that victimizes the population on both sides of the argument Pattison not only shows the Tibetan conflict but the Chinese officials who struggle to carry out the orders amidst corruption and greed A strength of the story is the complex development of the protagonist and supporting characters who change as they deal with these issues and it adds great depth through the exploration of cultures who conquer other cultures and go on to eradicate their history and people.
Clues are laid out in such a way that it feels as if two mysteries are being solved It is unpredictable in so many ways and on so many levels The complexity of plot, the terrific development of character make it rise above your normal everyday mystery novel The loose ends are tied up and I loved the twist at the end The only question I had was Yeshe His story doesn t seem to be over and I wonder if he pops up in the sequels Or maybe I didn t want his story to be over because his internal changes made me sad in his hopeless view of events that had transpired in the investigation.
I am sitting in Bali trying to write this as fast as I can because the Internet is somewhat unstable and my netbook battery is even unstable Perhaps I can come back and revisit this review because I m not really doing this book justice It was terrific and I d read it again in a heartbeat I think I really should read it again to understand the intricate plot I highly recommend it.
I m being generous in giving this 3 stars In a way, it reminded me of a Tony Hillerman book a body found in mysterious circumstances, which can only be explained by delving into the native culture religion, which is at odds with the modern, conquering culture, so someone must bridge that gap to understand, thus find, the killer s Add a remote, beautiful, exotic location, an intricate plot, and you may have a great book The main problem with this book was the overly intricate and dense plot, making it hard to follow and figure out just what was going on I don t want to take notes when reading a mystery I should know why the investigator is going somewhere and why he needs to talk to someone Additionally, the author beats you over the head with the injustices of the Chinese system of government and justice, especially as applied to the subjugated Tibetans I almost gave up on the book a few times, and finally, with about a third or less left, just opened up randomly toward the end, so I could find whatever resolution there would be Haven t gone back to the parts I missed doubt I will.
Shan is a political prisoner in a work camp, when a dead body is discovered The local political boss decides to have Shan investigate, given his background He is assigned a Tibetan prisoner to help, and a Chinese guard to watch them The plot is thick and quite meandering, but Shan is determined and keeps investigating, eventually uncovering the culprit and the motive Ambitious effort, with a healthy dose of anti communist pro Buddhist philosophy I was bored at times, and doubt I will read the next book in the series.
RTC I have read every single book in this series I am giving it five stars as the author has done a bold deed in revealing ancient secret Tibetan esoteric information imbedded in the storyline An international lawyer by training, early in his career Pattison began writing on legal and business topics, producing several books and dozens of articles published on three continents In the late 1990 s he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra Winning the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery and listed as a finalist for best novel for the year in Dublin s prestigious IMPAC awards The Skull Mantra launched the Inspector Shan series, which now includes Water Touching Stone, Bone Mountain, Beautiful Ghosts, and The Prayer of the Dragon Both The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone were selected by.
com for its annual list of ten best new mysteries Water Touching Stone was selected by booksense as the number one mystery of all time for readers groups The Inspector Shan series has been translated into over twenty languages around the world.
Pattison entered China for the first time within weeks of normalization of relations with the United States in 1980 and during his many return visits to China and neighboring countries developed the intense interest in the rich history and culture of the region that is reflected in these books They have been characterized as creating a new campaign thriller genre for the way they weave significant social and political themes into their plots Indeed, as soon as the novels were released they became popular black market items in China for the way they highlight issues long hidden by Beijing from info BEWARE OF SPOILERS I DON T HIDE OR PROMOTE MY REVIEWS.
How can one book be so bleak and so uplifting I ve not studied Tibet, so I don t independently know whether Pattison got the land and culture right except for broad political outlines in recent Tibetan history, which I am familiar with But it sure seems as though the author spent years absorbing the environment.
The hero, Shan an independent thinking political prisoner who s ethnic Chinese is plucked from his Tibetan work camp to use the skills acquired in his pre disgraced life as an anti corruption investigator in China proper Shan is brilliant but humble Kind Stubborn Almost impervious to the criticism of others, but self condemning.
He s got mere days to figure out a suspicious death that threatens to make the prison s director and assorted other bigwigs look bad He also has to deal with the natural distrust of the Tibetans towards the Chinese Shan s not willing to produce a white wash just to please the bigwigs But if he doesn t solve the crime, the director has said Shan s fellow inmates will be killed.
Shan is intuitive as well as a keen observer Not only of obscure or seemingly trivial facts that, together, point toward the truth about the crime But, also, of the tragedies and failures in the lives of those he comes across That covers the prison official who forced Shan onto the case, his fellow prisoners, corrupt officials, lowly peasants, Tibetan priests of iron character, American engineers on a local mining project, and one fallen priest.
Most of the book, I felt at least two steps behind Shan To a certain extent and I m embarrassed to say this I had a hard time keeping straight which exotic Chinese or Tibetan name belonged to which character That confusion sometimes hampered my understanding of the story.
But at other times I was thinking that Pattison, than some authors, really does skip some segments of the lines he s drawing, which forces the reader to either connect the dots herself or to proceed reading in a faith that eventually will make sense I did a bit of both.
Toward the end, however, I did correctly anticipate a few things That Jao s secretary would be dead, and that perhaps Kinkaid spell was involved in something shady I loved the way the indigenous Tibetan prisoners used traditional mudras Buddhist hand positions almost like gang signs, to communicate with each other when the guards aren t paying attention But I m probably imposing some Western conceit on the behavior, as Pattison portrays these Tibetans as living their spirituality in everyday routines, down to the hand gestures.
I m glad this series has other books about Shan already waiting for me
The argument that this book resembles some of Tony Hillerman s, except for location, seems valid Particularly in the clash of two cultures Hillerman s books were not all at the same level of storytelling If you like Hillerman, you might enjoy this as well.
Another review noted that Shan is a similar character to Martin Cruz Smith s Akady Renko This is particularly true in the same sense as a classic Philip Marlowe We have the crusading knight out to discover the truth no matter what the cost Like Renko he has to battle an often hostile bureaucracy If you liked Polar Star, you might enjoy this as well.
The Corpse Is Missing Its Head And Is Dressed In American Clothes Found By A Tibetan Prison Work Gang On A Windy Cliff, The Grisly Remains Clearly Belong To Someone Too Important For Chinese Authorities To Bury And Forget So The Case Is Handed To Veteran Police Inspector Shan Tao Yun Methodical, Clever Shan Is The Best Man For The Job, But He Too Is A Prisoner, Deported To Tibet For Offending Beijing Granted A Temporary Release, Shan Is Soon Pulled Into The Tibetan People S Desperate Fight For Its Sacred Mountain And The Chinese Regime S Blood Soaked Policies Then, A Buddhist Priest Is Arrested, A Man Shan Knows Is Innocent Now Time Is Running Out For Shan To Find The Real Killerin An Astonishing, Emotionally Charged Story That Will Change The Way You Think About Tibet And Freedom Forever