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Soul of the Fire    by Eliot Pattison order for
Soul of the Fire
by Eliot Pattison
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Soul of the Fire follows Mandarin Gate as the eightth in Eliot Pattison's stunning series starring Shan Tao Yun, once an Inspector in Beijing. It started with The Skull Mantra, in which Shan was disgraced for anti-corruption investigations and incarcerated in Lhadrung Valley in Southern Tibet. There he labored alongside Buddhist monks. Once released, he continued his own spiritual journey.

After Shan helped his old nemesis, Colonel Tan, in Lord of Death, Tan had Shan's jailed son Ko moved to Lhadrung Valley and also organized a menial job for Shan as an inspector of ditches. But now Tan is very seriously ill and appears to be in no position to continue to protect Shan.

As Soul of the Fire opens, Shan and Lokesh are arrested and Lokesh is imprisoned. Shan has been chosen to replace Commissioner Xie (who died) on the People's International Commission for Peace and Order, investigating Tibetan suicides. Western commission members (including two Americans) act under the auspices of the United Nations. The threat to Lokesh is used to control Shan.

Shan discovers that his predecessor, Xie, was murdered. He learns that Pao Xilang, 'the young star of the party' who effectively rules Tibet, is pulling the commission's strings. As the commission glosses over cases of self-immolation in 'a political charade' - a monk is engulfed in flame outside their window. Shan determines this was not a typical immolation protest.

From his hospital bed, the ruthless Tan, a fervent patriot who despises corruption, is also pulling strings, quite effectively. As Shan learns of a murder in Macau, uncovers an evidence factory, and meets with Dawa, a charismatic female purba leader, it becomes clear that there's a lot more going on beneath the surface of events than is immediately apparent.

Eliot Pattison again delivers a brilliant, often gut-wrenching read in Soul of the Fire. Do read the Author's Note at the back of the book, in which he tells us that 'The more I write mysteries set in Tibet the more I realize that the greatest mystery may be the extraordinary resilience of the Tibetan people' ... lha gyal lo.

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