The Skull Mantra - Inspector Shan, Bk 1 Author:Eliot Pattison Winner of the 2001 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, The Skull Mantra was a sensation when first published and received wide acclaim from critics and readers alike. The Skull Mantra was ranked with Gorky Park and Smilla's Sense of Snow as a novel as much about a people and a place ... more »-- the Tibetans of the high Himalayas -- as it is a gripping thriller.
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 someone high up in Beijing's power structure. Granted a temporary release, Shan is soon pulled into the Tibetan people's desperate fight for its sacred mountains 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 killer. « less
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By the end of the second chapter, you will be wondering, how the heck Inspector Shan is going to come out of this mess alive, much less figure out who the murderer is. I loved this book! There are so many twists and turns to the plot that it was all I could do to keep up. Shan is up against impossible odds from the get-go. He is a prisoner in a Chinese work (road building) unit and is called to investigate a murder (since he was a dedective before being incarcerated). It starts out that he is involved as a front only but he far too tenacious to NOT discover the real truth. The deeper he digs, the more dangerous things become. In addition, the author describes many aspects of Chinese and Tibetan culture that are fascinating. I highly recommend it!
Vikki C. (Vikki) reviewed The Skull Mantra (Inspector Shan, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 3
Excellent read! First in a series. Lot of research went into this book and it shows. You always feel badly for everyone in the book but they all carry on in spite of a horrific life, showing the depth of human spirit.
The author provides much interesting information about Tibet and its culture and the way it has been destroyed by the Chinese invasion. The mystery was a bit garbled and convoluted and I kept losing track of who the characters were. Pattison writes beautifully and compellingly when speaking of Tibet, its people, and Buddhism. I will read his other novels only because of this and not for the mysteries.
The blurbs on the book call this a thriller. It's more than that. Shan, investigator from Beijing who's now a political prisoner in Tibet, is called upon to help solve the beheading of the Prosecutor of the district. The book is long and involved, but fascinating every step of the way. A vivid picture of Tibet and political China adds to the mix. I really liked this book and heartily reccommend it.
I slid into this book effortlessly and was spellbound throughout. This book is as much about the land and the people of Tibet as it is a skillfully plotted and gracefully written mystery. In the depths of a desert summer, Pattison had me shivering with cold in a prison camp high in the Himalayas. I suffered with the prisoners, and I watched, amazed, as Shan Tao Yun deftly wove his way through a labyrinth of Tibetan customs and the cruel and callous bureaucracy of the Chinese. I am always somewhat impressed and aghast at the subtleties involved in such a completely different mindset. Shan always seemed to know when to push an advantage and when to retreat; how to look for the open window when a door is slammed shut in his face. You would think that such a man, unjustly accused and doing whatever he can to survive in hellish conditions, would become bitter and hard. Shan has not. Living as he has with the priests and other Tibetan prisoners, he seems to have absorbed their quiet calm and infinite kindness. When you combine this behavior with his sharp policeman's mind, you create an incredibly powerful and memorable character.
As I was learning about Chinese prison conditions and the contempt and cruelty the Chinese have shown the Tibetan people over the years, I was also falling in love with the landscape. How could I not with passages such as this:
"The seeds of the night sky grew in Tibet. There the stars were the thickest, the dark blackest, the heavens closest. People looked up and cried without knowing why. Prisoners sometimes stole from their huts... to lie on the ground silently watching the heavens. The year before... an old priest had been found in such a position one morning, frozen, his dead eyes fixed on the sky. He had written two words in the snow at his side. Catch me".
As is so often the case when reading a book that deals with a mindset so entirely alien to mine, I didn't even try to deduce what had happened or who had killed the American. I was pulled along in the strong current of Eliot Pattison's lyrical narrative, hoping that it would never end. This is one of the best books I've read this year, and I look forward to continuing the series.