Clark I reviews books and sometimes writes them!
Mandarin Gate: Eliot Patterson Life for continues to be difficult for Shan Tao Yun. Once a formidable Inspector stationed in Beijing, finally released from a work camp hoping to create some type of life for himself. But, the story opens in an unusual way where he meets him and two monks getting ready for a celebration and the reopening of a shrine. As one monk is chasing a thief and hopes to get back his bounty, Shan and Lokesh the other monk assist him in his quest. But, what happens next will not only surprise Shan but also create a serious void in his heart and life. As he and the monk bring back what was stolen, clean the items and prepare for the celebration Shan spies a rifle among the monk’s possessions. Fearing that this would get him in trouble with the authorities he planned to rid him of the gun before it’s noticed. But, the tables turn deadly as the monk prays, says his final words and uses the gun on himself. Fearful, sad and knowing that the death had to be hidden or more would follow in a different way, Shan and Lokesh plan on the burial and find a way to hide what some might find out anyway. But, not before Shan spies the police in the Tibetan township and comes face to face with a heinous crime scene and much more. Status matters in this world and according to the Chinese government those without official identity do not have the freedom to move about and Shan cannot return to his home in Beijing and lives among the outlawed Buddhist Monks. As the new Inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches, a job, not that vital or important, he falls upon this scene. Jamyang’s agony in death would be great, as he would not go to heaven as one would want to. Jamyang must have as Shan contemplates had some great agony in life that propelled him to take his own. If his death is not hidden, the death of an unregistered monk dying of a bullet self inflicted in his head would definitely flag a red alert to the Chinese police. If as he states the knobs will learn of it, then those in Public Security would use it as an excuse to ship more to the camps. Lokesh would set about the task of carrying him away to be cleaned and hopefully remove him before anyone notices. As the author enlightens the reader into Shan’s past life, his relationship with his son who is in prison and his life right now. Meeting a Public Security lieutenant he learns more about what the police are looking at and the fresh crime scene he came upon. The scene an old Buddhist temple the victims two men and a nun arranged in the pattern of the letter U. The bodies mutilated, defiled and covered with red paint and their hands held down with a stone. The woman wore a Tibetan wool cap and the sight would bring chills down anyone’s spine. As Shan assesses the crime scene more thoroughly as the police go off in a different direction he notices some important things about the murdered victims. One thing for sure someone went to a lot of trouble to orchestrate the scene and not blood but red paint covered the bodies. As he looks closer at the male figures he finds something in a pocket, a striker flint and then a piece of paper he takes with him. Looking closer at the woman he learns she’s a nun and he finds several things on her that he takes too. What is the link to the lama that killed himself and why did the murders take place in the same exact spot? Jamyang cleaned the offerings and his demeanor sad, solemn. Saying goodbye to the deities, Shan realized he knew about the murders. With no direct supervisor over him he has more freedom to investigate the murders and what he learns from just his observations is quite compelling. Reenacting the murders in his own mind by sitting at wheel where the nun was working he as Lokesh would say picked up the chain of prayer and added his link to the dean woman’s as many did before him for centuries. Sitting at the wheel and lost in his thoughts he forgot it was a murder scene and yet he pictured the events in his mind. As you learn more about the officers, the officials and the government in this book you learn that in the Chinese Empire a member of any of the nine ranks of public officials are distinguished by the specific kind of button worn on their cap which defines them in Mandarin society. When Shan meets a woman named Chemno he learns more about the redistribution centers, the transitions communities and the lives of those placed in these prisons without bars. What he is told is not really the truth as he witnesses the conditions with his own eyes when he visits the Clear Water Camp and sees it for himself. Learning that they converted an old army base into a pacification camp and sending children to work in the factories was eye opening for Shan. Meeting with Jigten he learns even more. Reflecting on what happened with the police lieutenant and realizing there was more to her story and as she welcomed him to their model pioneer community and learns that someone stole the bodies and someone attacked her but who and why? Pain inflicted, gunshots and more were the usual in Tibet and Shan and Meng were now in the middle of what he the author refers to as a hailstorm of death you might say. As he hopes to safe some and he meets a man named Yuan. Yuan Guo was a professor and his life was in Harbin. He established the Chinese History Department and married a professor. As they shared their lives he learned why the families were there, the threats made against their children and the fate of many others. As he learns more about the pacification camps and the people living there he realizes that he has entered once again a dangerous territory. Justice needs to be found and Shan will not give up until he finds the truth behind the murders, protects Cora, the American woman, enters the world of the internment camps and finds himself embroiled with the criminals, pacification teams, the corruption in the government and a gang called the Jade Crow. All throughout the novel you begin to see different shades of Shan as he battle other demons within himself to learn and find just where he belongs. Author Eliot Pattison takes the reader inside the internment camps to see first hand the conditions, their lives and hear the voices of those sent there. The author allows the reader to get to know Shan in-depth as he struggles to find his own way in Tibet, investigate the murders, help those in the internment camps and find his true identity and worth again. The pain inflicted, the tears shed and hopelessness all come through plus the first hand knowledge he offers the reader as someone who visited and still visits Tibet and has seen the conditions first hand. As the story continues we learn more about the cells of dissents, those transplanted to Tibet hoping they would not survive, and the pacification settlements and truth behind what is really going on in them and the conditions that the people live in. There are threats made to those living there and there are concessions they have to make in order to protect their young. Shan then leads us back to the murders and the fact that the three bodies were stolen as he meets Professor Yuan and then the encounter with the gang. Attacked by the gang members, questioned about the murders and adding more information than he had before the tensions rise and the situation more volatile for Shan. Then, a twist. Face to face with Liang and threats made on all sides Shan finally goes to seek out the answers he needs at the nun’s hermitage but will they welcome him and when will all of the pieces of the puzzles fit into place? As we hear the voices of the abbots and learn more about what will happen if they come and interrogate them about the American who witnessed the murders. Just how can Shan help and why him? Shan delves deeper and we learn the truth behind what Cora and Rutger were filming and what was in the photos and videos. We learn more from Jigten and from Chemno and the Clear Water Camp. How would they show the Chinese that not everyone was blind to what they were doing? Deceits, thieves, murders, lies and much more comprise the lives of these people as they dig their way to survival but can they? There are so many issues brought to light by the author. Abuses against these people, lies told to them in order to survive, prison camps that were masked as internment camps supposedly to help these people have a better life. As one of the Jade Crow hears more truths than he cares to from Shan and the link to the dead lama is revealed and a secret about him uncovered many worlds would change. Author Eliot Pattison reminds the reader that what is described in this book really happens, is happening now and is real. Take a trip inside the internment camps, hear the screams, feel the pain and understand the fears, customs, ways, myths, stories and lives of the people of Tibet and the dismantling of Tibet by the Chinese government over the last two generations. Learn what the government of Beijing has done to destroy the culture and beauty that was once Tibet. But as Shan rides with the police, learns the ways of others, allows Public Security to beat and abuse him he loses sight of Shan. What story did Jamyang tell and what was in his journal? Take a picture the lens does not lie unless you doctor what is filmed or photographed what you see as you read this book will remind you just how blind is everyone to the truth? The Mandarin Gate: the gate Mandarins leave after receiving honors from the Emperor. One man would sacrifice his life for telling the truth but what happens will surprise the reader. A caste system that ranks people according to their position and presents them with a badge to wear for everyone to know their standing or ranking. An ending that will surprise the reader and a people that come together as one. Voices that will be heard and stories that will be recorded and told. One man Shan: where will life take him next? Fran Lewis: reviewer