The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone

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.

The Skull Mantra and  Water Touching Stone by Eliot Pattison are great mysteries.  They are also two of the most political books I have read in a long time.

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.


Filed under Mystery, Review, TBR

7 responses to “The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone

  1. Oh, no: this is supposed to be the year in which I catch up with reading series, not another year in which I get hooked on more good ones! (But actually, I’m really glad you mentioned these: they sound right up my proverbial reading alley. Thanks.)

  2. Ooohhh…sounds different. I’ll have to tell my brother about this series. He is big on Tibet and their issues.

    • I think your brother will really like the Inspector Shan books. Pattison writes about Tibet and also the areas to the northwest.

  3. I’ve been a devoted fan of Pattison’s Tibetan mysteries for years and I’m so happy when other reviews/posts pop up on blogs. His books were also my first real exposure to what is going on in Tibet and although the mysteries are good, I’m more drawn to the socio-political and historical aspects of the books. I hope you continue with the series because they are all brilliant.

  4. I am re reading Skull Mantra again at the moment. I did a search just now to send information to a friend & am delighted to find that Eliot has written more work.

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