Eliot Pattison's ultra-outsider detective
He's Han Chinese, but he lives and works in Tibet, where the Chinese are not universally loved, to state the case mildly. Not only has he lost his job as a police investigator in Beijing because he crossed Communist Party officials , but he has been exiled to a brutal labor camp in Tibet as punishment. In the first Inspector Shan novel, the Edgar-winning Skull Mantra, he is still a prisoner when officials reluctantly call on him for help to solve an urgent case. They are so far from anywhere that there is simply no other competent investigator to be found.
Shan's work on that case earns him an uneasy and unofficial freedom that he spends in a secret, illegal Buddhist monastery with monks he met while in prison. He continues in this semi-hidden, shadowy state in Prayer of the Dragon, the fifth in the series.
In this latest novel, he and the monks Gendun and Lokesh have been summoned to an isolated Tibetan village where Beijing's rule had not managed to penetrate thoroughly, but no matter; some of the village traditions are brutal enough on their own without Chinese help. "It was a strange gray place," Shan thinks, "in which the worst of both worlds was combined."
All this makes Shan Tao Yun more of an outsider than your average cop who's impatient with his boss. For one thing, Shan's outsider status is far more dangerous than that of most crime protagonists.
I'll stop now and let you go read the books yourselves. You'll find a list of them here. While you're on your way to the bookshop or library, ponder this question: Of all the outsider crime-fiction protagonists you know, who is the most outside, the most precarious, the most alienated? What makes him or her that way?
© Peter Rozovsky 2008
Tibet crime fiction
China crime fiction
Asia crime fiction