In this third suspenseful mystery-thriller from Edgar winner Pattison (The Skull Mantra; Water Touching Stone), discredited former Beijing police investigator Shan Tao Yun, unofficially released from a central Tibetan gulag, is now living with a group of outlaw Buddhist monks, some of whom helped him through his most unbearable prison experiences. In gratitude he and his friend, the renegade monk Lokesh, agree to escort a stolen religious artifact to the remote Yapchi Valley, the site, coincidentally, of international oil explorations, from which an American engineer has disappeared. Chinese plans to clear the valley and relocate its farmers and sheepherders to cities will profit the mining project and aid the Chinese "in another effort to pry Tibet's collective fingers from its rosary." Just as the holy artifact is a mystical symbol of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, so the multilayered story is imbued with Tibetan belief, civilization and politics. Readers with little knowledge of Tibet's religion and history may have difficulty following the plot with its large cast of varied, well-drawn Tibetans, Chinese and Americans, countless treks through rugged, stunning landscapes and the numerous side plots—including several murders—some of which are red herrings. Pattison's empathy for the cause of Tibetan independence is admirable, but it often overwhelms his story. The book, which is far too long and discursive, becomes a polemic that dilutes Shan's search for the truth. National author tour. (Sept. 16)
Forecast:While not much in the news of late, the fate of Tibet remains a hot issue. Look for strong demand from mainstream readers, especially those with a spiritual bent.