In Water Touching Stone, the sequel to the internationally acclaimed The Skull Mantra, Shan Tao Yun is cloistered in a remote Tibetan sanctuary when he receives shattering news. A teacher revered by the oppressed has been found slain and, one by one, her orphaned students have followed her to her grave, victims of a killer harboring unfathomable motives. Abandoning his mountain hermitage, Shan Tao Yun, a former Beijing police inspector who has been exiled to Tibet, embarks on a search for justice. Shadowed by bizarre tales of an unleashed 'demon,' Shan braces himself for even darker imaginings as he stalks a killer and fights to restore spiritual balance to the ancient and tenuous splendor of Tibet.
Few mystery sequels have been awaited with as much anticipation as this one, and in many ways this is a worthy successor to Pattison's first novel, the Edgar- winning The Skull Mantra (1999); it too is full of reverence for the beleaguered people of Tibet, especially its tortured and imprisoned Buddhist monks. "I know that of all the world I have seen, the lamas are the best part of it," says Shan Tao Yun, a former high-ranking police investigator from Beijing who because he looked too deeply into some financial scandal was disgraced and imprisoned in a Tibetan gulag, where his life and his soul were saved by the monks who were his fellow prisoners. Released without official consent after his investigations into a murder exposed Chinese corruption, Shan has been living quietly among the monks, awaiting his chance to escape the country with the UN's help. Will he now risk his freedom to find out who killed a revered teacher and several wandering orphan boys? To Pattison's credit, he makes Shan's choice to roam across the wastes of northern Tibet in a virtually endless and dangerous search seem inevitable and totally believable even if some readers would rather see him in action on the streets of London or San Francisco. And Shan's companions are largely fascinating: a vast gallery of Kazakh resistance fighters, White Russian smugglers who ride camels along the old Silk Road and Chinese officials of varying degrees of nastiness. Finally, though, there are too many people, places, events and questions and pages to sustain the amazing energy of Pattison's initial creation.