The Tibetan highlands conceal a serial killer in this fifth case from Edgar-winning Pattison (Beautiful Ghosts, 2004, etc.).
His reputation preceding him, exiled Beijing Investigator Shan Tao Yun is brought to the remote village of Drango, a quaint mountain community in a time warp. A wry lifelong scholar named Yangke who calls himself a poet shepherd urges Shan to help the elderly lama Gendun off the mountain to safety. The outlaw lama seems to be near death, but Shan is struck by the strangely assertive society that surrounds him. At the foot of the peak known as Dragon Mountain, there are flags with blunt warning messages, “Keep Out” and “Danger.” Even worse, near one stand of flags are clear traces of two dead bodies with their hands removed. But this is only the beginning of the mystery. Citizens are loath, perhaps fearful, to discuss several previous murders marked by the same mutilations. Opposition to an investigation is both overt (villagers openly disdain Shan’s “invasion” of their lives) and covert (an avalanche of rocks threatens to derail the probe and kill the detective and his helpers). Shan finds politics, religion and history bound up in the solution.
Stories wrapped around other stories brocaded with abundant local color and told with leisure and elegance form a heady literary tapestry—even if it’s not to every taste.