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Blood of the Oak by Eliot Pattison

Eliot Pattison’s “Bone Rattler”/”Duncan McCallum” series just got another jaw-dropping installment with publication of “Blood of the Oak” by Counterpoint Press. Eliot Pattison’s novels have a way of waking the reader up to the grim realities of what really went on during Colonial American times, both the heroic and the barbaric.

There’s a lot of graphic detail about the treatment of Black and Indian slaves and white indentured servants in the colonial south during the 1760’s in this book.  There’s also a lot of factual history about the Stamp Tax Act and the ramifications of this attempt to make colonists pay taxes for finished products of every sort while receiving scant compensation for the raw materials that the colonies shipped back to England.  “Blood of the Oak” vividly describes how the stage was set for the Revolutionary War and also poignantly describes how the Iroquois and other Indian tribes were wiped out by a combination of settler incursions onto Indian land, war, disease and enslavement of Indian people.  At the end of the book we see the Iroquois’ female spiritual leader and her most trusted chiefs take the tribes’ idols deeper into the wilderness in a futile effort to get away from death and destruction at white men’s hands.

Not every reader will be able to stomach the violence in “Blood of the Oak.” Those who stick with it will be rewarded with a visceral understanding of that critical period of Colonial history between the French and Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War.  Particularly interesting is the description of  how the Sons of Liberty were able to communicate with each other to eventually unite a disparate group of colonies using a complex system of codes and a range rider system that included both colonists and Iroquois allies.

Despite the extremely graphic violence in this book, it is another masterpiece of America historic fiction and a really bone-rattling mystery thriller.  It will be impossible to romanticize Colonial history again after this excellent, accurately portrayed work of historical fiction.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied pre-pub review copy.)

 

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Two Himalayan Thrillers

Soul of Fire” by Eliot Pattison and “Tibetan Cross” by Mike Bond both have themes set in the Himalayas and both will leave readers both spell-bound and full of questions about international policies and actions taken in Tibet and on behalf of Tibetan freedom fighters.  Both are exciting page-turners and both will leave readers deeply troubled about what is and has been going on in Tibet and Nepal for decades.

Pattison’s new novel, “Soul of Fire,” is the eighth in his Inspector Shan Novels series.  Shan has been appointed as a token Chinese dissident to an international panel meeting in Lhasa to “investigate” the spate of self-immolation deaths of Tibetan protestors.  What Shan uncovers is a systematic attempt on the part of the commission’s Chinese handlers to control the commissions findings, discredit the Tibetan freedom-fighters and murdering anyone who objects by staging deaths as immolation suicides.  The scenes describing an immolation, which several commission members witness, is pretty graphic and grim.  It is not a subject every reader will have the stomach to read about, but anyone who follows the book to its conclusion will have a better understanding of what motivates many Tibetans to take their own lives, and also how and why Tibetan freedom-fighters continue to strike out against Chinese domination.

Bond’s “Tibetan Cross” is equally thought-provoking and it takes quite a different point-of-view.  This novel is set during the Cold War period.  Four Americans who either fought in Vietnam, or were war dissidents have set up a business in Katmandu leading treks into the Himalayan mountains.  The book opens while they are leading a group they find out are linked to the CIA on a mission that turns out to be quite different than the one they thought they signed up for.  An accident reveals that their convoy is really delivering weapons, including a nuclear bomb, to Tibetan freedom-fighters to use against the Chinese.  The CIA operatives waste no time in killing two of their American guides and chasing the other two around the world in an effort to silence them about what they saw.  The protagonist, Sam Cohen, learns through bitter experience that he cannot rely on anyone, and everyone he comes in contact with after the incident on a Nepali pass will be brutally murdered by the CIA.  “Tibetan Cross” is a very dark and cynical look at U.S. and international intelligence forces and the measures they will take to complete a mission no matter what the cost.  What I find a little disappointing is that it was difficult to develop any real sympathy for Cohen because he also employed brutal tactics and killed innocents when they got in the way.  It was hard to find anyone to actually like in this story– all the good guys were killed off.  Still, many thriller readers and fans of Bond’s earlier novels will find “Tibetan Cross” both exciting and thought-provoking. Both books get a thumbs up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Original Death by Eliot Pattison

Original Death” is the third in the “Bone Rattler” series of mysteries set in colonial America.  Once again, Pattison has presented an exciting, historically accurate mystery- adventure story that is similar in some ways to the great American novel, “Last of the Mohicans.”

Like James Fenimore Cooper’s classic, the story is set during the bloody French and Indian War of  1756-1763.  Duncan McCallum is a recent transplant from war-torn Scotland where his entire family was slaughtered by the English as a result of their Jacobean sympathies.  He has been befriended by Conawago, one of the last of his Iroquois Nipmuc clan.  They skirt the French and English battle zones– they think– in search of a Christian Iroquois settlement that is believed to hold a few more of Conawago’s clan members. They find many of the village’s elders and some of the children butchered and indication that several of the children and their teacher have been taken captive, probably to be sold as slaves by the Huron or their allies the Mingos.

Duncan is in the process of investigating the crime scene when a group of British raiders come across the scene and assume Duncan is responsible for the murders.  After several narrow escapes, Duncan is faced with the decision of whether he will sacrifice the remaining kin of his friend Conawago, or his fellow Scottish Highlanders who have made the unfortunate decision to side with the French and the Hurons against the British on the hope that a French will allow the Scotsmen to settle with land in the French Canadian territory.

While the story is a work of fiction, the story is based upon raids of Iroquois Christian villages in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  As Pattison indicates in the Author’s Note, while he has taken some literary license “the broad elements of the conflict reflected herein are faithful to the historic record.”  Readers will feel as if they have been plunked down in the middle of the conflict between the French the British and their respective native and Scottish allies.  Many innocent pawns lost their lives in horrific ways during that conflict.

Pattison creates characters and plots that make it easy for the reader to get caught up and fully involved in the work.  It is hard to put his books down because they are so well written and suspenseful.

Original Death” is another winner from Eliot Pattison.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

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Conversation With Eliot Pattison is on for Tonight!

If you’re a fan of international mystery plots like I am you’ll want to make a point of calling in to hear all about Eliot Pattison and his latest book “Mandarin Gate” at 7 p.m. central time.  Call to 1-218-936-4700 and enter code 5819354 when prompted.  This will be a long distance charge call, but if you have Skype you should be able to get on free if you are in the U.S.  The conversation should last about 90 minutes.

Here’s a little about Eliot Pattison from his publicist, Julia Drake:  “Described as “a writer of faraway mysteries,” Eliot Pattison’s travel and interests span a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica. An international lawyer by training, he brings his social and cultural concerns to his fiction and has also written several books and dozens of articles on legal and business topics, published on three continents. He is the author of the Edgar award-winning Inspector Shan Series, the Bone Rattler series, and Ashes of the Earth, the first novel in a new dystopian series. But his sentiments for Tibet and the Tibetan resistance run deep. His Inspector Shan books have been characterized as a new “campaign thriller” genre for the way they weave significant social and political themes into their plots. Translated into twenty languages, the books have been adapted to radio dramas and become popular on the black market in China. For more info visit: www.eliotpattison.com

Even if you are not a mystery reader generally, this novel is where fiction meets fact in the area of human rights and the absorption of Tibet by its Chinese overlords.  Those concerned with the treatment of the Tibetan people under Chinese control will want to hear Mr. Pattison’s ideas, experiences and research on this topic.

You can participate by adding your questions to the comment area on this blog.  I will be monitoring the blog this evening and will pick up as many questions as possible for Mr. Pattison to address.  Depending on the number of people on the call (we have 150 lines available) we may try to unmute near the end at least for a few minutes.

One of the reasons I am so interested in Pattison’s Inspector Shan series and in the way he brings to the western world a greater understanding of what is happening within Tibet is that in 2005 I had the privilege to attend an audience with the Dalai Lama.  The powerful presence of this holy leader and the message that he brought of peace and understanding despite the terrible things happening within his own country was astonishing.  I will never forget this experience!

Liz Nichols

 

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Mandarin Gate by Eliot Pattison

Mandarin Gate” is Eliot Pattison’s 7th novel in the Inspector Shan series.  Shan is a fictional character, but through his experiences the reader gets a true-to-life picture of what is happening in modern-day Tibet.  Shan recognizes that China is trying to absorb Tibet “from the inside out” through massive resettlement of ethnic Chinese dissidents and Chinese gangs, herding of nomads into settlement camps where there is little hope of the people being able to produce sufficient food and shelter to live, by sending dissidents to hard labor “gulags,” and locking up Tibetans in reeducation camps for months on end even when their only infraction is being a relative of someone who is considered a dissident.  Spies are everywhere–even in the monasteries and abbeys that serve as a refuge and inspiration for the Tibetan people.  Shan does what he can to uncover injustice and neutralize those who perpetrate atrocities.  He has learned that he cannot always permanently eliminate evil in the world, but he can counterbalance it a little.

In “Mandarin Gate” Shan, the Beijing police officer-turned ditch inspector in exile within remote Lhadrung County in Tibet, teams up with an unlikely ally, a Chinese police lieutenant, Meng Limei.  Meng is assigned to keep order in a resettlement town named Baiyun which is full of dissident former university faculty from Harbin and a cadre of smugglers and thugs originally from the jungles of Yunnan Province.  The resettlement town sits in a valley that includes a monastery on one end and an shrine that is in the process of restoration on the other.  Within the first chapter or two of the book the abbess of the local abbey and two men are violently killed and later that same day Shan’s good friend, the much-revered lama, Jamyang, commits suicide.  Shan believes there is a connection between these deaths and he convinces Meng to help in his investigation, even though her superiors are clearly trying to shovel all of the nastiness under a rug.

As is typical of Pattison’s prose, the book does not include a single unnecessary description or detail.  The spare prose is beautifully written to explain the elegantly complex plot as simply as possible. Descriptions reveal a lot about each character’s personality and motivations with little extraneous or unnecessary dialog.  This suspense novel is so gripping it is almost impossible to put down.  The reader is made to feel as if they have stepped inside a remote Tibetan detention center or a farm house headquarters of the Jade Crows and are ducking punches right along with Shan.  The descriptions in “Mandarin Gate” become vividly real.

For all those who find the Inspector Shan novels enlightening, and for those who care about the plight of the Tibetan people, I have a special surprise.  The MysteryMavenBlog has arranged a teleconference interview of Eliot Pattison for next week, Tuesday, January 15 at 8 p.m. Eastern time (7 Central, 6 Mountain and 5 p.m. Pacific time).   The number is: 1-218-936-4700.  You will be asked to enter the participant access code: 5819354 to get in.  Because we have only 150 lines available you’ll want to get in early.  The call will last no more than 90 minutes. The numbers prohibit our unmuting except possibly at the very end for everyone to say goodnight to our guest author.  If you have questions please put them in to the comments section of this blog and I’ll ask them when I can of our author.  Alternatively, send your comments and questions to me at my email: lizdnichols@gmail.com.  I will add a text box at this site so you have that information available to you on the day of the event, and if you sign up to receive email from my blog you will get a reminder message ahead of the conference time.

Liz Nichols

(Copy of this work was provided for review.)

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Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison

Edgar Award winner, Eliot Pattison, is a master storyteller. His mystery set in post-apocalyptic America, “Ashes of the Earth,” is no exception. Previously, his novels have been set in historical times; this time around he has jumped into the future to construct a world thirty years after global warfare destroyed life as we know it.

The protagonist is Hadrian Boone, a middle-aged survivor who helped to build the colony of Carthage in a remote area of what was the Northeastern U.S. Across the lake are exile outposts for those who were not fit enough to pull their own weight in Carthage. Beyond the New Jerusalem exile outpost is St. Gabriel, another colony in what had been Canada founded by former prisoners escaped from a lock-up that was destroyed in the holocaust. Fishermen, salvage seekers and marauders explore these and other more remote locations, but basically there is very little communication between the city-states.

The political and social constructs are very like those of ancient times while the technology that runs each community comes from the 19th century. The re-inventor of much of the technology and the medical discoveries in Carthage is also the town librarian, Jonah. He discovers something about the drugs being shipped in from St. Gabriel and their strange effect on the young people of Carthage and becomes expendable.

Hadrian vows to find his friend’s killer and in the process sets off on a dangerous voyage to the exile camps and ultimately to St. Gabriel along with a young police officer, Jori Waller, a young salvager named Dax, and another officer named Bjorn. Together they unlock the mystery of Jonah’s death and save Carthage certain destruction from the inside out.

Most of the novel displays the unremitting hardship of life after nuclear holocaust. It shows how hard-fought each bit of progress in life is and how fragile life really is. The book makes one appreciate what we have in this world and not want to take what we have for granted. It could all be gone in an instant.

“Ashes of the Earth” will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is hard to take the constant bleak prospects of how these survivors must live out their lives, and how little they have to pass on to their children of traditions, religion, memories and physical objects. The few possessions that these people gain are treasured, though, ironically, many do not treasure their children enough to protect them from superstition and the drugs that can quickly destroy mind and body.

This book is for anyone who wants a profound and disturbing look into the human soul in the years following the apocalypse. I view “Ashes of the Earth” as one of the most exceptional fictional accounts of the year.

This review was written from a review copy.

Liz Nichols

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Review of The Lord of Death by Eliot Pattison

“The Lord of Death” is the 6th in Eliot Pattison’s Shan mystery series.  He is the Edgar Award-winner for his first Shan novel, “The Skull Mantra.”

Shan Yao Tun is an undocumented Chinese exile in Tibet living under a brutal Chinese regime.  He has made his living helping with foreign mountain climbing expeditions on Everest and other Tibetan peaks, and yet at any time he can be arrested for being an undocumented alien.

The main mission in this book is to get Shan’s son, Ko, transferred out of the ‘yeti factory,” a hospital prison where the Chinese perform medical and biological experiments on live human subjects, and to get him back into a “normal” prison gulag environment.

Shan also solves a number of mysteries along the way in “The Lord of Death” including solving the deaths of a famous Nepalese climber, a Chinese bureaucrat and a pretty female American climber.

He must also try to save a band of monks who have been rousted from their “gompa” or remote monastery hide-out.  To help the monks escape to Nepal or India Shan had to get the help of an American mountain climbing organizer, some Chinese officals, and even a Tibetan police officer. The trade-offs he had to make with the Chinese officials, especially in order to get his son released from the “yeti factory,” makes for particularly interesting insights into how business is done in occupied Tibet.

Pattison obviously is an excellent scholar of Chinese and Tibetan philosophy and culture, and of Buddhism. He makes it al make sense to the western outsider.

Pattison’s writing is fresh and exciting.  He really makes the reader feel a part of the culture and to emphathize with the people who are trying to survive in a brutal environment and under an intolerant regime.

I want to go back and read others in this series and look forward to reading the next in the saga of Shan and his Tibetan experiences.

Liz Nichols

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