I read mysteries for sheer enjoyment and don’t normally write about them because there are some wonderful blogs out there that cover this genre, but I have to make an exception for this two books from my TBR stack.
Inspector Shan Tao Yun was a police inspector in Beijing before he crossed the wrong people and got himself thrown in prison. Not into a prison in China but into a gulag on the high plains of Tibet, a country that China invaded in 1959. Both of these novels are complex, telling stories that include mystery and mayhem and also telling about the people of Tibet and their struggles under Chinese occupation.
In The Skull Mantra, Shan is pressed into solving a murder by a Chinese bureaucrat. Some of the local people believe the murder was committed by a demon, the Chinese believe that a Buddhist monk is the killer. Interwoven throughout this novel are the stories of Buddhists imprisoned by the Chinese, of temples destroyed by the government and of the Tibetan people’s struggle to practice their religion and maintain their traditional culture.
Water Touching Stone finds Shan and an interesting group of Tibetans tracking down the killer of a teacher and several children. They journey to the northern reaches of the Tibetan plateau and cross the Kunlan Mountains to the Taklamakan Desert. There they find that several group of people are involved in this mystery. Disgruntled officials, soldiers, smuggles and nomadic clans all have a part in this story. I found Pattison’s description of the desert, its history and the people who live there completely intriguing. Part of the ancient Silk Road, this is an area of the world that I know little about and I want to learn more.
All of this in two fine mystery. I plan to read the rest of the Inspector Shan series. Be warned, Pattison puts his feelings about the situation in Tibet into these books and some readers may find the politics out-of-place. I didn’t and I find the authors explanation for writing these novels honest and direct. These mysteries only make my support of the Tibetan people and other people suffering the destruction of their traditions stronger.