St. Martin's, Sep 2002, 24.95, 432 pp.
Disgraced Chines police investigator Shan Tao Yun knows he owes the Buddhist monks his life as they have made his insufferable prison exile tolerable. So when they ask him to deliver a religious idol to a sacred place in the Yapchi Valley, he readily assents to taking the artifact to its home. Renegade monk Lokesh also agrees to accompany Shan on the trek.
However, the journey, which is arduous, turns tragic when someone murders the guide. Shan learns that in Yapchi Valley, the Americans drill for oil, but the female engineer has fled the area. Adding to his bewilderment is that the Chinese army wants the return of the idol stolen from them before it fosters Buddhist teachings over Party lessons and in turn nurture dissent. In this mess, Shan seeks justice, but the Americans, the Chinese, and the Tibetans each have their own definition.
The third Shan tale provides the audience with an interesting mystery that is overshadowed by insight into the region, especially the Tibetan question, but the story line can be difficult to follow because of the deep cerebral look at Buddhism and Communism. Still the who-done-it is intriguing and Shan remains a fascinating lead protagonist, but Eliot Pattison's novel is more for those in the audience wanting a better understanding of life at the top of the world.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner