The Skull Mantra

The Skull Mantra

by Eliot Pattison
4.2 34

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The Skull Mantra (Inspector Shan Tao Yun Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
barrya More than 1 year ago
Eliot Pattison is quite different, perhaps not for everyone. He has written/is writing two different series - that is, books that follow two different characters in two very different times. But there are basic similarities. His initial award-winning series follows Detective Shan, a Han Chinese who was once a highly-placed detective in Beijing but whose investigations into corruption among high Party officials finally got him framed and disgraced, "investigated" as an enemy of the State - which involved three years of torture, both physical and chemical - and eventually banished to a labor camp - hard labor prison - in occupied Tibet. There he was saved by the lamas who - so long as they survive which is often not all that long - are imprisoned there also. Shan deeply admires the lamas, especially one who becomes his "rinpoche" - honored teacher. He strives to rid himself of the elements of his past life and to adopt the beliefs and attitudes of his teachers and friends. But Shan has a skill - he solves mysteries, both of the physical world and of the human spirit, in ways no one else around him can. This is because he is accepted by the Tibetans as one who honors and wishes to be one with them and yet he has an attribute they do not: he sees the world in terms of cause and effect. They do not; they see the world in the immediate present - what happens does so because it was fated to be that way. So in The Skull Mantra, which is the first in a series, both the Tibetans and the ruling Chinese occupiers turn to Shan to find the answers to deep mysteries - involving murders - and to resolve situations that otherwise would cause great harm to everyone in the area, Tibetan and Chinese alike. A note about this book and series: Pattison is deeply outraged by China's occupation of Tibet, even more by China's efforts to eradicate the traditional cultures and religions of the peoples of Tibet. His series featuring Detective Shan is an expose of what is happening in occupied Tibet - the rape of Tibet by the Chinese. What is going on there is completely understandable from the perspective of the Chinese, especially those in the government there. They believe that all culture stems from Chinese roots and that the Party must become the substitute for religious beliefs and structures which they consider oppressive of the masses. Pattison, being strongly opposed, makes sure to show the brutality of the occupation. Thing is, he gets onto it pretty strongly. Some may find the expose part gets in the way of the story. The first couple of books in the series are pretty heavy into that. It's illuminating and well worth the effort - but as i said, it may be a bit heavy-handed for some. One other thing: these novels move at the pace of Shan's spiritual journey. As a result, you follow events but they don't rule the book. At one point i asked my wife what was happening in the Pattison book she was reading. She responded, "Not much; this is Pattison." True. It's like you are presented with a diorama, a broad representation of what happened at an exotic and distant (in all senses as this all takes place in Tibet, "at the roof of the world") place and what the book does is take you from one element to another, presenting you with different visions until these elements all come together and you understand what actually occurred. I liked them, found them well worth the effort; i've read every book
Asian_hist_reader More than 1 year ago
This series should be read in order, to understand fully the happenings. However, even singly, this book is touching, and helps the average reader understand the trials and tribulations the Tibetan peoples and culture have endured while under Chinese control.
Gaz More than 1 year ago
Too long.....disconnected....boring....I could hardly wait to put it down. Gaz
Guest More than 1 year ago
When China defeated Tibet, the people were forced into prison work gangs. While working on a road along a mountainside, prisoners find a headless corpse. The Beijing party is desperate to close the case because American tourists would soon be arriving, so they force a prisoner to investigate the murder. The prisoner is Shan Tao Yun, an ex-police inspector. Shan is temporarily released, but is made very aware of the harsh consequences if he runs. The commander wants the case solved quickly with no suspicions that it was actually a murder. Shan soon discovers a connection between a Buddhist demon and the murder. He is torn between the regulations that he must abide by and his Buddhist beliefs of protecting his fellow Tibetans. Through many obstacles of hatred, greed, and scandals, he discovers the truth of murder, drugs, and the demon Tamdin.

A dominant literary element throughout the book is setting. Tibet is a home to many beliefs and superstitions that are not accepted by the Chinese. For a prisoner during this time, beliefs are the only thing that can give hope. Shan is forced to go against the Buddhist faith to be politically correct and take the side of his enemies. He is faced with the conflict of going against his own or doing wrong by not discovering the murderer and saving the spirit. Shan is torn between the two because his fellow prisoners will be punished if he does wrong. Shan feels very strongly about his work gang, there are many respected Buddhists in the gang. Tibetan ways reveal unity and one must choose between his people and religion or his enemy and their power to destroy that unity, in the Skull Mantra a prisoner is freed to do right for his enemy or follow what he believes in the investigation of a murder.

Guest More than 1 year ago
Pattison introduces a new kind of hero in his suspenseful novel The Skull Mantra. One time high-ranking prosecutor, now political prisoner Shan, is a middle-aged, regular guy just trying to do his job and live an honorable life. He doesn't shoot anyone or blow up anything, yet manages to prevent a miscarriage of justice and establish harmony in many lives. Dialog in The Skull Mantra is realistic and creates depth in his characters. There are no 2 dimensional, all-right or all-bad, characters; each is complex. He demonstrates over and over how one must know context, history and self in order to recognize right and wrong. In its emphasis on comprehensive understanding without bias and prejudgment Skull Mantra is reminiscent of the 'Speaker for the Dead' from Stephen Donaldson's 'trilogy,' Ursula LeGuin's Lathe of Heaven and Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature. Pattison brings an exotic treasure back from Tibet and makes history the fascinating subject it should be in schools.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and the Tibetan info is interesting, but I do get tired of Americans being portrayed constantly as idiotically naive and gullible. How could this stupid woman ever have gotten a corporate job of any kind, let alone plant manager, with such a hogh degree of ignorance about the way of the world? Answer: she couldn't have,, no way,no how.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating and absorbing twist on detective fiction. The people of Tibet and their relationships with China are part of the fascination. Inspector Shan is a terrific protagonist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best thing about The Skull Mantra is the detail it goes into regarding China and Tibet, and the philosophical and religious depths it plunders. I learned a great deal about the people and the situation in the area. As for the plot, I found it confusing at times and had a hard time keeping the myriad characters straight. I also thought it dragged in spots and could have been shortened. Still, if it is cheap enough and you enjoy a detective story with an unusal and complex background, this novel could be for you.
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The plot is good. But it jumps around so much and bounces back and forth between things that the reader has no reference for.
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I was not only entertained, but educated about Tibetean culture as well.
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