Friday, 26 March 2010

Review – Elliot PATTISON – “Water Touching Stone”

Year Published: - 2002
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 09 941486 4
Pages: - 628pp
Genre: - Mystery, Topography,
Location:- Tibet,
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- The news that a venerated teacher has been murdered and a Lama is missing causes a disparate band of outcasts to go to the North Tibetan plateau.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

Justice is elusive in this borderland area with Western China but Shan Tao Yung, a former Bejing investigator, is determined to solve the problems he is set as a serial killer is on the loose. He is ably assisted by two ancient Tibetans but whose side the Muslim clans, soldiers, smugglers, secret Buddhists and vengeful officials are on seems to vary. .

General comments:-

The best book about modern Tibet that I have read. I can recommend it as a real eye-opener for anyone who is unaware of the history of this ancient area and how the whole culture and peoples have been cruelly damaged in recent decades. I have read a couple of non-fiction books on the subject but neither of them made the experiences live in the way that this mystery story did. Many gems about Buddhism also find their way into the story.

The Inspector Shan series:-
1. The Skull Mantra (1998)
2. Water Touching Stone (2001)
3. Bone Mountain (2002)
4. Beautiful Ghosts (2004)
5. Prayer of the Dragon (2007)
6. The Lord of Death (2009)

Shan sat with the three Tibetans in front of the cabin in the last rays of the sun with the pile of stones collected by Jowa and the lama. Gendun picked a rock from the pile, gazed upon it, and passed it around their small circle. It was a small, ugly thing, crusted with dirt and what may have been camel dung. Jowa watched uncertainly, but accepted the rock from Shan and looked it over before returning it to Gendun. With the rock in one hand, the lama took a dipper of water and poured it over the rock. The dirt fell away, and the rock became brilliant, with a swirl of oranges and browns, and a tiny seam of something green. The lama handed the rock around the circle, and Shan and Lokesh studied its complex beauty. When Jowa took it he passed it quickly on to Gendun. But the lama handed it back to the purba.
Jowa looked at it a few seconds, turning it over, and passed it to Gendun. The lama handed it back to him and Jowa accepted it back, more uncertainly, then began to study the rock in earnest.
It was an exercise Shan had seen often in the gulag. The crust of life, one of the imprisoned monks had called it. They would just sit sometimes on their brief eating breaks, and wash rocks, sometimes using their only water ration for the day, wash away the crust that accumulated from living in the world, to reach the true nature of the rock.

AUTHOR Notes:-

Elliot PATTISON was born in 1951 in Scotland. Details about his globe-trekking life can be found on his website

In the late 1990's he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra. Winning the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery--and listed as a finalist for best novel for the year in Dublin's prestigious IMPAC awards--The Skull Mantra launched the Inspector Shan series and both The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone were selected by for its annual list of ten best new mysteries. Water Touching Stone was selected by Booksense as the number one mystery of all time for readers' groups. The Inspector Shan series has been translated into over twenty languages around the world.

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