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The Lord of Death: A Shan Tao Yun Investigation    by Eliot Pattison order for
Lord of Death
by Eliot Pattison
Order:  USA  Can
Soho, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lord of Death is the sixth (following Prayer of the Dragon) in Eliot Pattison's wrenching mystery series that began with The Skull Mantra. It stars ex-Beijing Inspector Shan Tao Yun and focuses on the plight of the Tibetan people under brutal Chinese occupation. Disgraced for his anti-corruption investigations, Shan labored alongside Buddhist monks Lokesh and Gendun in the People's 404th Construction Brigade. Once released, he continued his own spiritual journey in Tibet, helping set things right whenever possible.

In Beautiful Ghosts, Shan suffered a painful reunion with his son Ko - who grew up a rebellious hooligan. Now Ko is also in Tibet, imprisoned and under threat of 'cerebral pasteurization' in what locals call the yeti factory, 'a hospital for the criminally insane'. As The Lord of Death opens, Shan is escorting the corpse of a sherpa who died in a climbing accident (he was assigned the task by a local wisewoman) when he comes upon an avalanche that crushes a military bus carrying monks to imprisonment. Most of them escape but an old lama remains to care for the injured driver. Soon afterwards, Shan comes upon two women who have been shot. One is dead (the Chinese minister of tourism) and one dying (blond American climber, Megan Ross).

Though Shan is at first arrested for the killings and tortured, the high-ranking Tibetan who employs him wins his release, demanding that he retrieve the sherpa's corpse (which has gone missing) as the other sherpas will not work until it's found and climbing season has begun. Without Shan to blame for the murder, Major Cao picks the next available suspect and arrests Colonel Tan, who happens to be Shan's only hope of saving his imprisoned son. What follows is a race against time to find the real killer. This takes Shan far into the past to the time when a strong resistance group (trained by the CIA) fought the Chinese invaders - and were ultimately betrayed by one of their own.

As always, Eliot Pattison tells a harrowing tale, sadly based on reality, in The Lord of Death. And as always, he leaves room for hope and a degree of redemption for even the worst of evildoers. If you haven't found this series yet, it's a must read for anyone who loves a good mystery or has an interest in Tibet's plight. And don't miss the Author's Note at the back of the book, that talks about the 'American connection to the Tibetan resistance', long shrouded in secrecy. Highly recommended!

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