About the Book

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur; New Ed edition (June 17, 2002)
ISBN-10: 0312982178
ISBN-13: 978-0312982171

The news that a venerated teacher has been murdered and a lama is missing sends an unlikely band of outcasts into the remote northern reaches of the Tibetan plateau. Two old Tibetans travel to restore the spiritual balance disturbed by violent death. A sullen resistance fighter races to battle a new foe. But Shan Tao Yun, former Beijing investigator and newly released from four years of prison camp, sets out to find justice.

In the dangerous borderlands of western China, however, justice is elusive. Vengeful officials, soldiers, smugglers, secret Buddhists, and the remnants of the proud Muslim clans all stand in the way of Shan's pursuit of a serial killer whose terrible motives lie buried in the Tibetan struggle.


Carl Lennertz of Book Sense announces the compilation of a Best Reading Group Books of All Time 76 list. The #1 mystery is: Water Touching Stone, by Eliot Pattison

From the Author

While the characters and most of the places in this book are fictional, the struggle of the Tibetan, Kazakh, and Uighur people to maintain their culture and identity is very real. Many elements of this story are distilled from actual events in that fifty-year struggle, and from the rich and fascinating heritage of the Silk Road. The sands of the Taklamakan desert do indeed sometimes part to reveal ruins of lost Silk Road cities and tombs, and dedicated archaeologists from many nations do indeed work among the ruins, and do find ancient mummies and textiles, despite the political storms which rage around their work. Genetic research in the region and even scholarly assessment of scraps of cloth have attracted such political controversy that the simplest quest for knowledge in those distant quarters can be an act of heroism. And sadly, in Tibet the government of modern China has repeatedly interjected itself in the identification of reincarnate lamas.

For those readers who wish to learn more, many excellent sources are available, and deserve recommendation. Perhaps the most comprehensive works describing the Tibetan experience are John Avedon's In Exile from the Land of the Snows, and The Dragon in the Land of the Snows by Tsering Shakya. The many excellent first hand accounts by or about Tibetan survivors include A Strange Liberation: Tibetan Lives in Chinese Hands, by David Patt, Ama Adhe: The Voice that Remembers, by Adhe Tapontsang and Joy Blakeslee, Palden Gyatso's Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk, and In the Presence of My Enemies, by Sumner Carnahan. The details of the most public of Beijing's interventions in the selection of Tibetan reincarnations are set forth in Isabel Hilton's important work The Search for the Panchen Lama.

The fascinating horse-based culture of the Kazakh people is well described in Kazakh Traditions of China, by Awelkhan Hali, Zenxiang Li, and Karl W. Luckert, and China's Last Nomads, by Linda Benson and Ingvar Svanberg. Elizabeth Wayland Barber captures the remarkable archaeological discoveries being made in the Taklamakan in her The Mummies of Urumchi, which are explored even more comprehensively in The Tarim Mummies by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair. Lastly, for any readers inclined to learn more about the world of cricket singers, Lisa Gail Ryan's Insect Musicians and Cricket Champions provides a lyrical introduction.


"Water Touching Stone is a mystery but it is more than just a who-done-it ... another triumph for fans of the Edgar Ward winning author."
--The Midwest Book Review

"Few mystery sequels have been awaited with as much anticipation as this ... a worthy successor to Pattison's Edgar-winning The Skull Mantra."
--Publisher's Weekly

"A rich and multilayered story that mirrors the complexity of the surrounding land, where few things really are as they seem. It's rare when a mystery brings something fresh to the genre. Eliot Pattison accomplished this with The Skull Mantra, and is now back with another intruiging tale of Tibet. Pattison takes readers to a quietly troubled part of the world and peels away at the centuries of culture that have come into conflict."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"Water Touching Stone is beautifully written and will stay with you long after you put the book down. It is probably best described as an intelligent thriller, although that really does not do it justice, as Pattison weaves together a delicate fabric made up of many strands from the political to the personal to create an engaging story."
--The Irish News

Given the critical and commercial success of Eliot Pattison's Edgar-winning debut novel, The Skull Mantra, which painstakingly limned contemporary Tibet's harsh beauty and defiant fatalism through the stoic perspective of Shan Tao Yun, a Chinese bureaucrat imprisoned in a Himalayan labor camp, it's no wonder the author's second novel returns to this hauntingly scarred country. But Water Touching Stone also widens the author's geographical and social scope. Shan must find a killer who is stalking orphan boys in the high mountains and deserts of the Xianjiang Autonomous Region.

Gendun, the senior lama at the monastery that has given Shan sanctuary, announces to his student, "You are needed in the north. A woman named Lau has been killed. A teacher. And a lama is missing." Though reluctant to leave the gentle presence of the monks who are balm to his crippled soul, Shan realizes he has no choice:

Gendun had told him the one essential truth of the event; for the lamas everything else would be mere rumor. What they had meant was that this lama and the dead woman with a Chinese name were vital to them, and it was for Shan to discover the other truths surrounding the killing and translate them for the lamas' world.

It turns out that Lau had taken upon herself the care of the zheli, a group of orphaned children from all corners of Xianjiang, and strove to help the children retain a sense of native identity in the face of the Poverty Eradication Scheme, which is Beijing-speak for the destruction of the herding clans and the transformation of the western steppes into a region of exploitableresources. Shan wonders whether officials from the People's Brigade (perhaps the "Jade Bitch," Prosecutor Xu Li), or the feared secret police "knobs" from Public Security decided to put a stop to her subversive activities. But when the children from the zheli begin dying amid horrific tales of the "demon" that came for them, bleak politics must grapple with darker imaginings.

The novel sports a practically Dickensian cast of characters, which might overwhelm the narrative by sheer numbers, yet Pattison manages to add depth to even the most minor of characters, and at the moments when the troupe threatens to become completely unwieldy, he deftly redeems the situation with moments of quiet poetry:

On they went, three small men in the vastness of the changtang, the wind sweeping the grass in long waves around them, the snow-capped peaks shimmering in the brilliant light of dawn. As they appeared over a small knoll they surprised a herd of antelope, which fled across the long plain. Except one, a small animal with a broken horn, which stared as if it recognized them, then ran beside them, alone, until they reached the road.
--Kelly Flynn










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