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Ashes of the Earth: A Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America Hardcover – April 1, 2011

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Ashes of the Earth: A Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America + Mandarin Gate (Inspector Shan Tao Yun Novels) + Prayer of the Dragon
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Printing edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582436444
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582436449
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,218,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Having successfully portrayed both modern-day Tibet and Colonial America in two series, Edgar-winner Pattison (Eye of the Raven) launches a third with this brilliant if grim mystery set in the 21st century 25 years after global mega-acts of terror have destroyed all U.S. government entities and almost all infrastructure. Hadrian Boone, one of the cofounders of the struggling colony of Carthage, located near the Great Lakes, is one of those who remembers the former world, as the time before the apocalypse is referred to, but he's on the outs with the community's leaders and on the verge of being exiled. The chance discovery of a body triggers a series of events that reintroduces murder and other crimes to a community reliant on 19th-century technology. Boone's efforts to find the truth and what it implies for Carthage's future put him in harm's way time after time. Pattison blends the bleakness of The Road with a well-crafted whodunit plot for another winner. (Apr.)
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Praise for Ashes of the Earth

"With a vital cast of villains and heroes, a vividly grim setting, and inventive, hair-raising action, ingenious mystery-writer-of-conscience Pattison explores the psychological toll of mass destruction and the need to salvage ideas and values, rather than material riches, so that a just society can rise from the ashes." —Booklist (starred)

"Brilliant . . . Pattison blends the bleakness of The Road with a well-crafted whodunit plot for another winner." —Publishers Weekly (starred)

More About the Author

Eliot Pattison has been described as a "writer of faraway mysteries," a label which is particularly apt for someone whose travel and interests span such a broad spectrum. After reaching a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica, Pattison stopped logging his miles and set his compass for the unknown. Today he avoids well-trodden paths whenever possible, in favor of wilderness, lesser known historical venues, and encounters with indigenous peoples. An international lawyer by training, early in his career Pattison began writing on legal and business topics, producing several books and dozens of articles published on three continents. In the late 1990's he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra. Winning the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery--and listed as a finalist for best novel for the year in Dublin's prestigious IMPAC awards--The Skull Mantra launched the Inspector Shan series, which now includes Water Touching Stone, Bone Mountain, Beautiful Ghosts, and The Prayer of the Dragon. Both The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone were selected by for its annual list of ten best new mysteries. Water Touching Stone was selected by Booksense as the number one mystery of all time for readers' groups. The Inspector Shan series has been translated into over twenty languages around the world.
Pattison entered China for the first time within weeks of normalization of relations with the United States in 1980 and during his many return visits to China and neighboring countries developed the intense interest in the rich history and culture of the region that is reflected in these books. They have been characterized as creating a new "campaign thriller" genre for the way they weave significant social and political themes into their plots. Indeed, as soon as the novels were released they became popular black market items in China for the way they highlight issues long hidden by Beijing.

Pattison's longtime interest in another "faraway" place -the 18th century American wilderness and its woodland Indians-- led to the launch of his Bone Rattler series, which quickly won critical acclaim for its poignant presentation of Scottish outcasts and Indians during the upheaval of the French and Indian War. In Pattison's words, "this was an extraordinary time that bred the extraordinary people who gave birth to America," and the lessons offered by the human drama in that long-ago wilderness remain fresh and compelling today.

A former resident of Boston and Washington, Pattison resides on an 18th century farm in Pennsylvania with his wife, three children, and an ever-expanding menagerie of animals.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am a big science fiction fan and occasionally like detective stories, so this seemed like a natural.

I have read many, many stories set in various types of dystopias, in apocalyptic, and the end of the world as we know it scenarios, and I am not unfamiliar with accounts of Nazi, Japanese, Soviet, and Chinese brutality and concentration camps and seemingly hopeless or actually hopeless situations yet, the small society depicted,--although not so organized or violent as these real examples were and are--was just too bleak for me, and I found myself reluctant to pick up the book again and to continue reading. Moreover, I found the beatings, mutilations, and various other repeated violent assaults against the main character--at this time probably 50, if not older, not eating too well, and likely not in prime condition--and his response, to be pretty unbelievable i.e. I found it harder and harder to believe that he took a licking one day and came back the next day for more, and then more again a couple of days later and, still, he kept on going.

I just couldn't finish it, and back it went to the Library.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Kitzmiller on May 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It has been thirty years since global holocaust, and the village of Carthage is struggling to build a new society. Hadrian Boone, one of the original founders, has watched a village founded on the desire for a future descend into corruption, greed, and power struggles. Disillusioned and wracked with grief over the family he lost, Hadrian has become an alcoholic and frequent trouble-maker. It is only when the town's wise man, Jonah, is murdered, that Hadrian is motivated to come out of his drunken haze and try to find the connection between Jonah's murder, a rash of child suicides, and a shipwreck that may or may not have happened.

In many dystopian novels, the dystopia is the story. In this book, the dystopia is only the setting, but don't let that word "only" fool you. The mystery is the story, and it exists in a dystopian future so real that I dreamed about it. The settlers of Carthage have managed to build an existence that goes back to the days before technology, and they supplement by salvaging what they can find in the ruins around them. Some people, like Hadrian and Jonah, want to preserve the past and learn from it, while others are determined to censor the literature from before the holocaust, believing that their only hope is to forget their history and look to the future.

One of the things I love most about dystopian literature is the way books become valued artifacts and reminders of the past, often reminders that some people want to suppress. Lucas Buchanan, the governor of Carthage, is one of those people. He's a dangerous leader - the type who believes that the end justifies the means, that the survival of the village is more important than the rights and treatment of the individual citizen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony J. Arnold on June 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This stand-alone mystery translates Pattison's popular Tibetan detective series (Skull Mantra etc.) into a post-apocalyptic setting, with essentially the same formula. Disgraced intellectual Inspector Chinese Shan is replaced by the disgraced intellectual co-founder of a colony of nuclear holocaust survivors; like Shan, he is unofficially tasked with solving a murder mystery by a corrupt government that interferes with his investigation and mistreats outcast mutants and radiation victims for the "greater good" -- much like the corrupt and monolithic Chinese bureaucracy interferes with Shan's investigations and mistreats the Tibetan people. The role of the wise but innocent Tibetan monk is played by a wise but innocent scientist who tries to rebuild civilization while working within the context of a short-sighted and despotic government. Pattison fans will recognize the theme.

Despite the formulaic approach (after all, that's why they call it a genre), this is quite a good book. Not only is it a thought-provoking, believable and evocative picture of a post-apocalyptic world, it reminds us that the true villain is the worst of human nature and not the Chinese/colonial government. And that it is the best in all of us that is the true hero. Pattison fans expect the formula, and they expect to be captivated by the setting, just as we are by Pattison's depiction of Tibet and the Tibetans. Fans will not be disappointed on either score.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tethernaut on April 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Like all of Pattison's books, Ashes is well written and engaging. The post-apocalyptic setting and society are well rendered and believable. However, if you have read the Duncan McCallum books, this one will seem too familiar to you. Hadrian is essentially the same character as Duncan. Sure, he's ostensibly older and an occasional drunk, but you never see the effects of those character traits in him. He's just as dogged in pursuit of justice, just as willing to sacrifice himself in that pursuit. The other problem I had with the book was that the governor, Buchanan, is such a caricature of the self-centered corrupt politician that he's just not very believable. In real life, corrupt politicians tend to be much more insidious.
So, reading Ashes, I kept wishing Pattison would stretch himself and create some truly new characters and plot structures, rather than re-hashing the same sort of protagonist and situation that he has used in the Duncan and Shan books. Nonetheless, like those prior protagonists, it's easy to like and root for Hadrian, and the fast paced action and complex, well-developed mystery make Ashes an enjoyable read.
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