Aboard a British convict ship bound for the New World, protagonist Duncan McCallum witnesses a series of murders and apparent suicides among his fellow Scottish prisoners. A strange trail of clues leads Duncan into the New World and eventually thrusts him into the bloody maw of the French and Indian War. Duncan is indentured to the British Lord Ramsey, whose estate in the uncharted New York woodlands is a Heart of Darkness where multiple warring factions are engaged in physical, psychological, and spiritual battle.
Exploring a frontier world shrouded in danger and defying death in a wilderness populated by European settlers, Indian shamans, and mysterious scalping parties, Duncan, the exiled chief of his near-extinct Scottish clan, finds that sometimes justice cannot be reached unless the cultures and spirits of those involved are appeased.
The Tibetans are terrified, the notorious Public Security Bureau wants nothing to do with the murders, and the army seems determined to just bury the dead again and Shan with them. No one wants to pursue the truth–except Shan, who finds himself in a violent collision between a heartbreaking, clandestine effort to reunite refugees from Tibet separated for decades and a covert corruption investigation that reaches to the top levels of the government in Beijing, China. The terrible secret Shan uncovers changes his town and his life forever.
In an earlier time, Shan Tao Yun was an Inspector stationed in Beijing. But he lost his position, his family and his freedom when he ran afoul of a powerful figure high in the Chinese government. Released unofficially from the work camp to which he'd been sentenced, Shan has been living in remote mountains of Tibet with a group of outlawed Buddhist monks. Without status, official identity, or the freedom to return to his former home in Beijing, Shan has just begun to settle into his menial job as an inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches in a remote Tibetan township when he encounters a wrenching crime scene. Strewn across the grounds of an old Buddhist temple undergoing restoration are the bodies of two unidentified men and a Tibetan nun. Shan quickly realizes that the murders pose a riddle the Chinese police might in fact be trying to cover up. When he discovers that a nearby village has been converted into a new internment camp for Tibetan dissidents arrested in Beijing's latest pacification campaign, Shan recognizes the dangerous landscape he has entered. To find justice for the victims and to protect an American woman who witnessed the murders, Shan must navigate through the treacherous worlds of the internment camp, the local criminal gang, and the government's rabid pacification teams, while coping with his growing doubts about his own identity and role in Tibet.
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.
The corpse is missing its head and is dressed in American clothes. Found by a Tibetan prison work gang on a windy cliff, the grisly remains clearly belong to someone too important for Chinese authorities to bury and forget. So the case is handed to veteran police inspector Shan Tao Yun. Methodical, clever Shan is the best man for the job, but he too is a prisoner, deported to Tibet for offending someone high up in Beijing's power structure. Granted a temporary release, Shan is soon pulled into the Tibetan people's desperate fight for its sacred mountains and the Chinese regime's blood-soaked policies. Then, a Buddhist priest is arrested, a man Shan knows is innocent. Now time is running out for Shan to find the real killer.
The Skull Mantra is the winner of the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.