Every once in a while it's good to step out of my reading comfort zone and pick up something different. The something different this time was Eliot Pattison's latest book Mandarin Gate.
This is the seventh book featuring Pattison's recurring character Shan Tao Yun. Shan was once an Police Inspector in Beijing, but was too good at his job. Corrupt officials sent him to one of the harshest work camps where he was taken under the wing of a Tibetan monk. Shan has embraced their philosophy and way of life. Newly released, he now labours as a ditch inspector for the Chinese government, but in Tibet.
When a local abbess and two unidentified male bodies are discovered in an old convent, Shan finds it hard to not use his old investigative skills. Shan's immediate concern is to protect the local Tibetans. There are numerous suspects to consider - a wandering monk, an American journalist, a German photographer, a local gang, bounty hunters, corrupt officials, those sent to 'pioneer' camps and many more.
What an absolutely riveting read this was on so many levels. Pattison makes a strong political and social statement with Mandarin Gate. The plight of the Tibetan people at the hands of the Chinese government is not simply a plotting device, but the state of things as they truly (and sadly) are. I learned so much by reading this book - the customs and mores of the people, the philosophy of Buddhism, the rituals and much more. All this plus a complex plot, filled with a rich and varied cast of supporting characters. But most of all, I enjoyed discovering Shan. He is such a wonderful character - smart, stoic and and staying true to the path he has chosen for his life.
Mandarin Gate was a compelling combination of commentary and crime. And a darn good read.
Read an excerpt of Mandarin Gate. You can find Eliot Pattison on Facebook.