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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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