Bone Mountain

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Eliot Pattison’s third novel, Bone Mountain, finds Beijing’s disgraced investigator Shan Tao Yun, now a willing student of Tibetan Buddhism, embarking on a mission to return the stone eye originally stolen from the guardian deity of Yapchi Valley. A prophecy has indicated that only a virtuous Chinese can perform this deed, a person difficult to find in a country controlled by a ruthless Beijing government. Before Shan can begin his journey, his Tibetan guide, a resistance fighter, is murdered. Accompanied by a Buddhist nun and his mentor and long-time friend Lokesh, Shan quickly learns that a government official connected with the missing eye has also been killed.

Shan’s pilgrimage to the valley leads him to a sacred lake and a salt camp of local farmers and villagers, a perilous climb over Yapchi Mountain, and a risky confrontation with a company exploring for oil in a Chinese- American joint venture. His most formidable antagonist is steely-eyed Colonel Lin of the People’s Liberation Army, who also seeks a killer and the missing eye. Lin is a cold man with no apparent human emotion except rage until he encounters crippled Anya, a mysterious Tibetan girl who speaks with the voice of an oracle.

The story itself is a journey, both physical and metaphysical. Shan, a student of fact and truth, vacillates between his analytical training as an investigator and the mystical insights of his Buddhist teachers. In addition to the breathtaking scenery, Pattison loads this thriller with intriguing glimpses of Tibetan culture and a litany of China’s abuses against the Tibetan people. His readers should be pleased.