Bone Mountain

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (May 1, 2004)

Deep in the heart of Tibet, Shan Tao Yun, an exiled Chinese national and a former Beijing government Inspector, is caught between the brutal Chinese army and a Western oil company. Shan has agreed to lead an expedition to return the eye of an idol, stolen almost a century ago and recently, clandestinely recovered, to a distant valley, an act that will fulfill an important Tibetan prophecy. But the pilgrimage turns into a desperate flight when the monk who is to lead them is murdered. Shan also discovers that the stone was stolen back from a brigade of the Chinese army that is now in hot pursuit.

Still possessing an investigator’s love of truth, Shan faces a perplexing tangle of mysteries. Why are the Chinese so desperate to retrieve the stone eye, why has an American geologist abandoned the oil company’s drilling project and fled into the mountains, and why are rumors sweeping the countryside that an ancient lama is returning to liberate this country? As he digs into these questions, Shan realizes that there is more at stake than mere justice: the spiritual survival of his people is in danger as well.

Complex and compelling, Bone Mountain is a spectacular achievement from a major voice in crime fiction.


While Bone Mountain is a work of fiction, the struggle of the Tibetan people to maintain their spiritual and cultural identity is all too real. There is indeed a Bureau of Religious Affairs which deploys a small army of bureaucrats against the practice of spirituality and ritual in everyday life and licenses monks based on their political, not their religious faith, The lands of Tibet have suffered as severely as its people. It is no coincidence that Beijing’s maps refer to Tibet as Zizang, its Western Treasure House. Sacred mountains have been deforested then leveled for their mineral content, scores of thousands of Chinese miners have displaced traditional farmer and herders and more than a few Tibetans have been imprisoned for trying to prevent bulldozers from despoiling their sacred grounds.


“Pattison has taken a plot of an old-fashioned thriller and turned it into a glimpse into a culture that is so rooted in kindness and respect for the individual that its destruction is an affront to all humanity…Thrilling and riveting.” –Denver Post

“Thoughts of Tibet conjure up great sweeping vistas of snow-capped mountains, but the land of blue sheep and Buddhist lamas is also a place of secret caves and hidden valleys where plants used in an ancient medical tradition that treats both body and soul flourish even as knowledge of their properties is lost under China’s brutal occupation. It’s the concealed power of Tibet, the enduring glory of the abused land and the courage of the resistance movement that fights to keep Tibetan Buddhism and its healing arts alive, that fires Pattison’s imagination and compassion, inspiring his series featuring the valiant Shan, formerly a Beijing investigator, now a lama’s disciple. The saga begun in The Skull Mantra (1999) and continued in Water Touching Stone…flows on in Pattison’s third soulful mystery, in which Shan is entrusted with returning the stone eye of a deity, a quixotic assignment that entails journeys both physical and spiritual and involves resourceful Tibetan rebels, a renegade American diplomat, an ancient medicine lama, and a ruthless Chinese army officer. Reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings with its quirky band of seekers traversing majestic yet treacherous landscapes, Pattison’s densely plotted and incredibly detailed novel induces his entranced readers to care deeply about both his compelling characters and long-suffering Tibet.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Once in a while a great novel receives recognition for its inherent stature. Such was the case when Eliot Pattison’s debut novel The Skull Mantra won the prestigious Edgar Award. His second novel, Water Touching Stone, would have won if The Skull Mantra hadn’t; I mean, you can’t keep handing the trophy over to the same guy, even if he deserves it. But the plain and simple truth is that no one is doing quite what Pattison is doing, and no one is doing what they do quite as well as what Pattison is doing.

If you are by chance unfamiliar with Pattison, or either of the aforementioned novels, you could certainly jump on with Bone Mountain. Although Bone Mountain is a continuation of the themes and characters introduced and explored in The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone, Bone Mountain stands quite well on its own, as Pattison continues to amaze and astound with some of the most compelling prose out there.” –Book Reporter

Eliot Pattison

“The best of historical novels allow us to commit our entire spirit to understanding another world that was once our own.”

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