Inspector Shan struggles to separate implausible myth from verifiable fact in probing a murky murder scene.
Now working as a constable in a rural Tibetan outpost, Inspector Shan Tao Yun (Soul of the Fire, 2014, etc.) is pressed in to a trip to the mountains when a superstitious woman named Yara bursts into his office with the cry, “The dead are rising!” She drops a set of coral beads covered in blood, which a female prisoner recognizes as the property of a hermit nun. When Shan investigates, he finds the nun, Nyima, brutally assaulted and two corpses nearby. One is a Chinese soldier dead for decades, the other a Western man dead for just a few hours. Examining the bodies in the comfort of the indoors is the first step in his investigation. Both were stabbed in identical fashion while immobilized with nails through the hands. Are the malevolent spirits whom all the terrified locals whisper about responsible? The methodical Shan is not to be swayed by superstition. In a modest library in Lhasa, he bones up on the military history of the region, looking for keys to the identities of the victims. The complexion of the case changes considerably when he learns that the dead Western man and Nyima were of the same family. To unravel the mystery, Shan must confront both rampant corruption and the locals’ denial of a shameful past.
Pattison’s ninth installment provides an important history lesson little understood in the West with authority, nuance, and genuine suspense.