In Eliot Pattison's Soul of the Fire, When Shan Tao Yun and his old friend Lokesh are abruptly dragged away by Public Security, he is convinced that their secret, often illegal, support of struggling Tibetans has brought their final ruin. But his fear turns to confusion as he discovers he has been chosen to fill a vacancy on a special international commission investigating Tibetan suicides.
Soon he finds that his predecessor was murdered, and when a monk sets himself on fire in front of the commissioners he realizes that the Commission is being used as a tool to whitewash Tibet's self-immolation protests as acts of crime and terrorism. Shan faces an impossible dilemma when the Public Security officer who runs the Commission, Major Ren, orders the imprisoned Lokesh beaten to coerce Shan into following Beijing's script for the Commission. He has no choice but to become part of the hated machine that is devouring Tibet, but when he discovers that the most recent immolation was actually another murder, he realizes the Commission itself is riddled with crime and intrigue.
Everywhere he turns, Shan finds new secrets that seem to lead to the last agonizing chapter of his life. Shan must make a final desperate effort to uncover the Commission's terrible secrets whose painful truth could change Shan's life - and possibly that of many Tibetans - forever.
Pattison's superlative eighth mystery featuring Shan Tao Yun (after 2012's Mandarin Gate) takes the former Beijing government investigator to Zhongje, a Tibetan community that the Chinese regard as a "showcase for the motherland." To Shan's astonishment, he's been tapped to serve on the People's International Commission for Peace and Order, "dedicated to eliminating the criminal acts of self-aggression that undermine harmonious coexistence in ethnic geographies." Shan, who has served time in labor camps, is to fill the designated slot reserved for a reformed criminal, but on his first day on the commission, he witnesses a self-immolation. His police training causes him to doubt that the death was a suicide, and his refusal to ignore the facts puts him at odds with his superiors, who don't want the truth derailing their political agenda. Pattison impressively combines a thrilling plot with a passionate denunciation of the Chinese oppression of the Tibetan people.