Soul of the Fire
Review: When Public Security suddenly escorts Shan Tao Yun and his friend Lokesh to the Tibetan "model city" of Zhongje, he fears he is going to be made an example of in some way. But to his surprise, he's asked to join a Chinese commission investigating the criminal acts of Tibetan citizens who have self-immolated as protest to the Chinese occupation of their land. He cannot refuse, as Lokesh has been taken to a local prison to ensure Shan's cooperation, in Soul of the Fire, the eighth mystery in this series by Eliot Pattison.
A member of the commission, which consists of a group of Chinese, two Americans, and a German, has suddenly died, and they need someone urgently to take his seat at the table. By holding Lokesh, the chairperson believes that she has secured a cooperative replacement. But Shan, a former Chinese official himself, knows there is more going on than he's being told. He quickly determines that his predecessor didn't die of a heart attack or stroke as believed, but was murdered. The obvious reason is that he clashed with his superiors, and removing him from the commission without causing an international incident was the easiest course of action. Still, the murder of a Chinese official, even if sanctioned, is hard to cover up, and Shan uses what he has learned as leverage to investigate further.
As is typical of the books in this series, the storyline in Soul of the Fire is a complex one with multiple plot threads interwoven and not all necessarily related. It is up to Shan to unravel the intricate tapestry he is given and reconstruct it in a way that makes sense. The setting is superbly drawn, giving readers a glimpse of Tibet that only local residents ever see. And the political oppression of the Chinese over the native Tibetans is starkly depicted. But the murder mystery itself is rather flimsy. To be sure, it is creatively crafted and deftly executed, but in the end, there isn't much to it. Whereas most of the books in the series strike a balance between political commentary and murder mystery narrative, this one is far more of the former and not enough of the latter. It's hard to fault Soul of the Fire as it is so well-written and, in its own way, it is a very compelling read, so suffice it to say that while it is very good, it is not quite on par with some of the other books in this otherwise exceptional series.
Acknowledgment: Julia Drake Public Relations provided an ARC of Soul of the Fire for this review.
Review Copyright © 2015 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Counterpoint (Hardcover), August 2013
ISBN-13: 9781582437316; ISBN-10: 1582437319
Blood of the Oak
Counterpoint (Hardcover), March 2016
ISBN-13: 9781619026155; ISBN-10: 1619026155
Location(s) referenced in Soul of the Fire: Tibet
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Soul of the Fire by Eliot Pattison — A Shan Tao Yun Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: November 2014
List Price: $25.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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