In Skeleton God, Inspector Shan has been assigned to a remote Tibetan village that should be far removed from scandal and crime, but if that were true, it would not be an Inspector Shan mystery. His assignment is a bargain made with District Commander Tan that will keep Shan close at hand if needed, but out of trouble. In exchange, Shan’s son who is now in the same prison Shan endured will be allowed an annual five day parole to visit Shan.
Then one day a nun is beaten by a ghost. Then they find two bodies, an American who was killed in the last few days and a Chinese soldier killed some fifty years earlier. Both killed the exact same way. A Public Safety Officer is there to witness the find, but does not want to report it. The Army is also keeping far too close an eye on the village.
Meanwhile, Shan’s son is coming to visit while he’s busy investigating the murders. Two more murders are discovered, but again, there’s a desire to hush them up. Shan is certain it all has something to do with the long ago rationalization of the village.
Skeleton God is a fair mystery. All the clues are there. We know early on who some of the villains are, but it’s clear the conspiracy is wider than the most obviously villainous outsiders–that they have help in the village. Who is helping them is the real mystery and it is complex enough that few will solve it earlier than Shan. Though when things fall into place, readers will be solving the case right along with Shan which is how it should be.
Skeleton God is satisfying at another level as well. Characters are well-developed and long-time series characters grow in complexity over time. Give him a few more books and District Commander Tan may even reach the “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone” stage. The book is rich in Tibetan folklore and history and as always, they inform the investigation and the story.
About Eliot Pattison’s Inspector Shan series: Shan was once a police inspector in Beijing before he unwisely investigated corruption among those powerful enough to make him disappear into the Chinese gulag. HIs time in prison introduced him to Buddhism and he learned much from the imprisoned monks of Tibet. His knowledge of these two worlds make him an invaluable investigator.
- The Skull Mantra
- Water Touching Stone
- Bone Mountain
- Beautiful Ghosts
- Prayer of the Dragon
- The Lord of Death
- Mandarin Gate
- Soul of the Fire
- Skeleton God