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 finds himself in the midst of a baffling series of events. During a ceremony meant to rededicate an ancient and long destroyed monastery, Shan stumbles across evidence of a recent murder in the ruins. Now Shan is being torn between some officials who want his help to search the ruins while others want him to disappear back into the mountains - with one group holding out the tantalizing prospect of once again seeing the son from whom Shan has been separated for many years.
In a baffling situation where nothing is what it appears to be, where the FBI, high ranking Beijing officials, the long hidden monks, and the almost forgotten history of the region all pull him in different directions, Shan finds his devotion to the truth sorely tested. Traveling from Tibet to Beijing to the U.S., he must find the links between murder on two continents, a high profile art theft, and an enigmatic, long-missing figure from history ...in Eliot Pattison's Beautiful Ghosts.
The opening of Pattison's intricate fourth book (after 2002's Bone Mountain) finds Shan, his disgraced Chinese police inspector, still living among the outcast monks in the mountains of Tibet, where the people are torn between wanting to observe their ancient religious ways and fearing the wrath of their Chinese occupiers if they do. Gradually, objects from the modern outside world begin to intrude: a gambling chip from a casino in Reno, Nev., found at a murder scene; a set of Staffordshire teacups lovingly preserved by an old Tibetan woman, who also owns a global positioning indicator. Though he's been deliberately avoiding civilization since his release from prison the year before, Shan ends up traveling to his native Beijing and finally to Seattle, ostensibly to help solve a murder mystery concerning Tibetan artworks, but really to settle a political squabble involving a veteran FBI agent, some powerful Chinese officials and an American software billionaire. The promise of a meeting with his long-lost son, now also an imprisoned criminal, raises the emotional ante. Pattison, who persuades us on every page that he knows the culture he writes about, has a tendency to explore in excruciating detail every possible twist and turn of his complex story. It may make for increased authenticity, but it also adds too many pages to a book that cries out for more economy. , won an Edgar for Best First Novel.