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Mandarin Gate: Inspector Shan Tao Yun    by Eliot Pattison order for
Mandarin Gate
by Eliot Pattison
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Mandarin Gate is the seventh (following Lord of Death) in Eliot Pattison's brilliant Tibetan series starring ex-Inspector Shan Tao Yun. It started with The Skull Mantra, in which Shan (the last honest man in Beijing) was disgraced for anti-corruption investigations and incarcerated in Lhadrung Valley in Southern Tibet. There he labored alongside Buddhist monks Lokesh and Gendun. Once released, he continued his own spiritual journey, doing good whenever possible.

In Lord of Death, Shan saved his old nemesis, Colonel Tan, who was falsely charged with murder. In return, Tan had Shan's son Ko (serving time in Tibet on drug charges) moved from a hospital for the criminally insane to Lhadrung Valley. He also organized a menial job for Shan as an inspector of ditches. As Mandarin Gate opens, the lamas tell Shan that 'The end of time was starting in Tibet.' He is with Lokesh when they see their friend Jamyang, an unregistered monk, running in the distance. Worried that a bonecatcher is luring Jamyang to the new Chinese town, Shan and Lokesh follow. Later that day, Jamyang shoots himself in front of Shan - why?

There are more deaths, three corpses in a ruined convent - a Chinese man, a Tibetan nun, and a foreigner. Shan meets a sympathetic female Public Security lieutenant, Meng Limei, who helps him. He learns that an American woman, Cora Michener, witnessed the killings and has gone missing. Shan discovers that the Americans had been filming horrors at a remote internment camp. When Cora and Lokesh are imprisoned there, Shan arranges for his own arrest in order to get them out. He befriends one of a group of Chinese intellectuals, exiled dissidents. And he learns of the terrible evil that drove Jamyang to suicide; Shan takes a great personal risk to expose it.

I have always appreciated the fact that Eliot Pattison takes a balanced view, portraying good and bad in both Tibetans and Chinese. This time Shan meets many countrymen whom he respects, and he becomes close to Meng Limei. I highly recommend Mandarin Gate - and the entire series - to you, and don't miss the Author's Note at the end. Pattison tells us, 'I am sometimes asked whether in my Shan novels I exaggerate Beijing's behavior in Tibet for dramatic effect. The answer is a steadfast no.'

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