Which will come first: enlightenment or death?
When disgraced former inspector, Shan Tao Yun joins a group of reverent Tibetans returning a sacred artefact to its home, it seems he has at last found the peace he has struggled for since leaving prison. What starts as a spiritual pilgrimage, however, quickly turns into a desperate flight through the Tibetan wilderness as the outlawed monk who guides them is murdered and Sham discovers that the artefact has recently been stolen from the Chinese army.
But why is the army so desperate to find the artefact entrusted to Shan? Why is an aged medicine lama being stalked by government agents? Why has an American woman, a geologist for an oil company, abandoned the project and fled into the mountains?
Shan discovers not answers, but only new mysteries as he is drawn to such unexpected places as the raucous headquarters base of the Western oil venture and a monastery that seems more attuned to the teachings of the party than those of Buddha. And the further he travels into the mountains, the more Shan realises that what is at stake is not only justice but the spiritual survival of those who have joined his strange quest.
At the heart of Pattison's powerful tale is a story of a brave, oppressed people who have learned to endure by drawing strength from their land and their rich spiritual traditions.