A brutal killing in Tibet draws a veteran investigator out of the safety of his new bureaucratic job and into a complicated tangle of political interests and deadly alliances.
Shan Tao Yun's journey to an abandoned convent, one supposedly filled with ghosts, infects him with memories of his many encounters with death, as well as imaginative nightmares that blur the line with the flesh-and-blood present. Shan has recently secured a safe, boring position as an inspector of irrigation and needs to keep a low profile if he wants to hold onto it. At the convent are a litter of corpses, including that of his friend Jamyang, who figures prominently in his nightmares. He retreats to a mountain perch from which he watches police swarm the site. The curiosity of the veteran investigator (The Lord of Death, 2009, etc.) is acutely piqued. He locates his philosophical old friend Lokesh, an official in the Dalai Lama's government before the Chinese invasion, who has also appeared in Shan's nightmares as a sage. Shan finds Lokesh nursing a frail, elderly lama. This man, who somehow knows about the killings at the convent, suggests that Jamyang was protecting something. Once Shan finds a list of Tibetan towns in Jamyang's pocket, he is pulled irresistibly into another intricate puzzle. Shan's probe requires him to reconstruct Jamyang's life, encounter bizarre characters like Genghis (who lives up to his famous namesake), and with Lokesh as Watson to his Holmes, walk a politically sensitive path.
Casual readers be warned: Pattison's seventh Inspector Shan thriller is another hypnotic immersion in a fascinating culture.