There are two factors the reader can always count on when reading an Inspector Shan novel: An interesting and unusual mystery amidst the sordid details of the oppressed Tibetan people following the takeover of the country by China, the everyday life, the rituals, religion and politics. This novel begins with Shan Tao Yun and his old friend, Lokesh, arrested by Public Security and placed in the back of a truck which then transports them to an unknown location.
They feared they were going to be jailed again for their support of dissident Tibetans. Instead, Shan is appointed to fill a vacancy on an international commission “investigating” Tibetan suicides. Lokesh is incarcerated to pressure Shan to “behave” himself so the commission can ultimately whitewash the series of immolations as that of crime and terrorism rather than as protests. The mystery aspect of the novel takes place almost immediately, as Shan learns his predecessor was murdered instead of suffering a heart attack, as had been bellieved.
The plot then progresses as Shan attempts to expose and ultimately destroy the commission, as well as help preserve whatever remains of Tibet’s past. At the same time, he works to solve the murders and achieve justice. More important, the subject of immolation and the examples of the faith of the Tibetan people are keenly portrayed.