Mandarin Gate (Inspector Shan)

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9780312656041: Mandarin Gate (Inspector Shan)

In Mandarin Gate, Edgar Award winner Eliot Pattison brings Shan back in a thriller that navigates the explosive political and religious landscape of Tibet.

In an earlier time, Shan Tao Yun was an Inspector stationed in Beijing. But he lost his position, his family and his freedom when he ran afoul of a powerful figure high in the Chinese government. Released unofficially from the work camp to which he'd been sentenced, Shan has been living in remote mountains of Tibet with a group of outlawed Buddhist monks. Without status, official identity, or the freedom to return to his former home in Beijing, Shan has just begun to settle into his menial job as an inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches in a remote Tibetan township when he encounters a wrenching crime scene. Strewn across the grounds of an old Buddhist temple undergoing restoration are the bodies of two unidentified men and a Tibetan nun. Shan quickly realizes that the murders pose a riddle the Chinese police might in fact be trying to cover up. When he discovers that a nearby village has been converted into a new internment camp for Tibetan dissidents arrested in Beijing's latest pacification campaign, Shan recognizes the dangerous landscape he has entered. To find justice for the victims and to protect an American woman who witnessed the murders, Shan must navigate through the treacherous worlds of the internment camp, the local criminal gang, and the government's rabid pacification teams, while coping with his growing doubts about his own identity and role in Tibet.

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About the Author :

Eliot Pattison is the author of The Skull Mantra, which won the Edgar Award and was a finalist for the Gold Dagger, as well Water Touching Stone and Bone Mountain. Pattison is a world traveler and frequent visitor to China, and his numerous books and articles on international policy issues have been published around the world.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :

CHAPTER ONE
 
 
The end of time was starting in Tibet. Shan Tao Yun’s old friend Lokesh had told him so repeatedly in recent months, reminding him just the day before as he had pointed a crooked finger toward an unnatural cloud lurking on the horizon. More than once during the past year Shan had listened, chilled, to Lokesh and their lama friends solemnly recount the ancient prophecy. Humans had been given their chance and had failed, had let their civilization become more about inhumanity than humanity. They were spiraling downward, biding their time until a more intelligent, compassionate species arose. The evidence was everywhere in Tibet, and it seemed perfectly logical to the lamas that the process was starting there, at the top of the world, the land closest to the homes of the deities.
Now, as he watched Lokesh clearing an old pilgrim path, murmuring prayerful apologies to the insects he disturbed, Shan realized he cherished the old Tibetans not just for their gentle wisdom but for the joy they showed despite the approaching clouds.
“Jamyang frolics with a goat!” Lokesh suddenly called out.
Shan saw that his friend had paused and was cocking his head toward the opposite slope. He looked across the small, high valley in confusion, making out now a running figure clad in the maroon robe of a monk. He glanced in alarm toward the road in the larger, main valley beyond. Only an hour before they had seen a police patrol. Jamyang was an unregistered monk, an outlaw monk, and it was reckless of him to show himself so close to a public road.
“He’ll be late for his own festival,” Lokesh declared with a grin, reminding Shan that the lama had asked them to join him in an hour for a meal at the little shrine by the remote hut he called home. The rest of the day was to be devoted to celebration of Jamyang’s restoration of the shrine.
Shan stepped to his truck, pulled his battered binoculars from the dashboard and focused them on the opposite slope. “Not a goat,” he reported a moment later. “He’s chasing a man.” The figure in front struggled to balance a sack and a long object across his shoulders, running with a bent, uneven gait.
With a worried, confused expression, Lokesh raised a finger and traced in the air the course of the path the running figures followed. “It is the way to that new Chinese town!” he warned, pointing to where the trail disappeared over the crest of the ridge. “He doesn’t realize where he’s being led!”
With sudden alarm, Shan studied the slope again. He had carefully avoided the town, one of the new immigrant settlements that were sprouting in the Tibetan countryside, and had warned his old Tibetan friends to stay away as well. The government had begun paying a bounty for information on unregistered monks, much more for their capture, encouraging a new breed of bounty hunters who did the work of the police in ferreting out hidden lamas. “Bonecatchers,” the Tibetans called such reviled men, for those they brought in were usually dazed, emaciated hermits who were little more than skin and bone. The bonecatcher who lured Jamyang into government hands would earn more than most Tibetans made in a year. There would be a police post in the town, with a jail. Once in the town the bighearted lama would never get out.
Shan frantically consulted the worn map on the front seat of his truck, then leapt behind the steering wheel. He called out for Lokesh to meet him at Jamyang’s shrine but as he turned the pickup truck around the old Tibetan leapt into the cargo bay.
He drove with reckless speed down the mountain, the decades-old truck bouncing and swerving in the loose, uneven gravel, fishtailing around the base of the ridge where Jamyang ran, then up the rough switchbacks of the far side to cut the fleeing man off. Shan could hear the clatter of the loose buckets and shovels in the rear, and above it the laughter of Lokesh, the gentle laughter that had helped keep Shan alive during the first terrible months when he had been thrown into a gulag barracks years before.
The old engine groaned and coughed as the truck climbed the dirt track that stretched up and over the ridge ahead of Jamyang, at last shuddering to a stop by a long defile of boulders where the trail intersected the road. Below them were open pastures and, less than a mile away, the small grid of streets that marked the new settlement.
The running man was so pressed with carrying his heavy load and watching the path behind him that he nearly collided with Shan. He gasped and tried to avoid Shan by jumping onto a ledge stone at the side of the trail. But his limp threw him off balance and he fell heavily, cursing as he twisted on his ankle, sprawling in the grass, the objects in the sack he had been carrying scattering around him.
“He’s a lunatic!” the stranger groaned with a fearful glance down the trail as he rubbed his ankle. “Raging at me like some crazed yak!” He began quickly gathering the objects in the grass.
Shan studied the man a moment. He was a tough wiry figure in his thirties with a long scar over his left eye that disappeared into shaggy black hair. His tattered fleece vest and cap seemed to mark him as a shepherd, but under the vest the Tibetan wore a black T-shirt with the image of a skeleton holding a sickle. Shan took off his hat.
The stranger stiffened as he recognized Shan’s Chinese features. “He’s not registered, Comrade!” the Tibetan cried out in a thin voice as he retrieved a small copper offering bowl. “He can’t be, hiding in that hut like some wild animal.” He pulled himself up, wincing as he put weight on his foot, then inched toward the largest of his burdens, two planks, as long as his arm, tightly wrapped with the ribbons used to tie together the wooden plates carved for printing Tibetan scriptures.
Shan took a quick inventory of the other objects the limping man gathered. A rolled deity painting, a small bronze figure of a dakini goddess, two sections of a ritual trumpet, and a silver gau, one of the amulet boxes devout Tibetans wore around their necks with secret prayers inside. With the printing blocks, such antiques would fetch enough on the black market to feed the man for weeks.
The shepherd began to lift the blocks to his shoulder, then gasped and stepped backward as he saw the tall lean man in the maroon robe who had materialized beside him. Jamyang smiled. “Lha gyal lo,” he said to the thief. “May the gods be victorious.”
The stranger raised the blocks in front of him like a shield. As Jamyang put a hand on the blocks he pulled them back, struggling to wrest them free of the lama’s grip. “There’ll be a bounty for the sorcerer!” he cried to Shan, then gestured to the settlement below. “There’s a police post in town, right there in Baiyun!”
The man, Shan realized, was genuinely afraid of the gentle middle-aged lama. Jamyang had appeared at his side, not from the trail, but as if out of thin air, without being in the least winded. Tibetan tradition included many tales of lamas who could magically transport themselves.
“What is the bounty for thieves?” Shan asked the stranger.
The man turned his makeshift shield toward Shan, then toward the end of the truck where Lokesh now stood. He sagged and lowered the blocks but as his gaze settled on the faded insignia on the truck door his chagrin faded. “You’re just a damned inspector of ditches,” he said.
“I am the damned official inspector of ditches,” Shan replied, “and that is the closest to the government of the People’s Republic you want to come today.”
The Tibetan stared at Shan for a few heartbeats then frowned and looked up in confusion as Jamyang, one hand still on the blocks, extended the little bronze dakini with the other. He released the blocks, grabbing the figurine and stuffing it into his pocket before placing the other stolen objects on the tailgate of the truck. After a moment Lokesh began to help him, then good-naturedly directed the thief to sit on the tailgate and pushed up his pants leg to examine his ankle. Lokesh sighed and glanced at Shan. The man may have sprained his ankle but his leg had already been twisted from a fracture that had not properly healed.
“You should have a crutch,” Jamyang declared, and glanced about the slope. The nearest trees were far below, along the stream that ran by the new settlement.
“I will drive him,” Shan said.
“Of course you won’t,” Lokesh quickly rejoined. “You will take Jamyang back and begin the celebration. By road it is miles to the town but by this sheep path it is a short walk. I will be his crutch, then meet you at the shrine later.”
Shan gazed with foreboding at the old Tibetan, knowing it was futile to argue. “You have your papers?” he asked his friend. Police were appearing with alarming frequency in the valley, checking and rechecking registration cards, even laying unexpected traps on back roads. The people of the valley were steeped in Tibetan tradition, which made them inherently suspect to the government. Lokesh gestured to his shirt pocket and nodded, then pressed his fingers on the gau that hung from his neck, as if to indicate the real source of his protection.
Shan gave a hesitant nod. “Lha gyal lo,” he offered. “We will wait for you before the evening meal.”
The shepherd held up a hand as Lokesh helped him onto his feet. He reached into his pocket and extended the bronze goddess to Jamyang. “No,” the lama said, “I gave it freely. It is an auspicious day,” he declared.
The thief’s face clouded. He remained silent, watching the lama with wide eyes as he limped away, one arm braced over Lokesh’s shoulder. Shan too gazed in confusion. The li...

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