Sprung from a forced labor camp, disgraced Beijing Public Security Investigator Shan Tao Yan is now, in his third appearance (Water Touching Stone, 2001, etc.), a somewhat wiser, certainly sadder investigator of mysteries both metaphysical and mundane. On the worldly side is the question of who killed Drotke, the Tibetan warrior-monk who bleeds his last before Shan’s horrified eyes. Was it the monstrous monk-policeman who clearly delivered a vicious blow, or did the estimable Drotke really die as the result of a treacherous earlier blow? And what, Shan asks himself, is behind the so-called disappearance of the young American geologist? Employed by a multinational conglomerate exploring for oil in a remote Tibetan valley, Melissa Larkin—despite protestations to the contrary from the Chinese government—can still be found doing business at the same old rock stand. But as Shan wanders over the desolate, beautiful Tibetan landscape, he has other, more pressing preoccupations. Willy-nilly, he’s become the embodiment of a prophecy. A virtuous Chinese, he’s told, will restore the long-lost (stone) eye stolen from an ancient Buddhist idol. Among the obstacles blocking Shan’s path is the dreaded 54th Combat Brigade of the Chinese Liberation Army, the members of which insist the precious eye was stolen from them. Undaunted, Shan keeps slogging ahead and, ever the seeker of truth, grappling with mysteries stemming from human frailty and the human yearning after God.
Enlightening, sometimes brilliant, often moving, but always very, very serious. Only very, very serious readers need apply.