Having spent his childhood shuttling between Paris and Dharamshala (where he was raised in a monastery by his Tibetan father), Tenzing Norbu has never felt entirely settled. He feels even less settled after being nicked by a bouncing bullet. Ten decides that being an LAPD detective is no longer the path to a satisfying life, so he retires and begins a career as a private detective. It doesn't take long before he's in the morgue, identifying the body of a woman he'd met only briefly. Of course, Ten decides to investigate the death, leading him to a retired musician who is being threatened by "the mob" and to a mysterious cult (the Children of Paradise). He eventually uncovers an extraordinarily unlikely scheme involving "key man" insurance policies and over-the-hill entertainers.
Every modern private detective, it seems, needs a friend who is a gifted computer hacker. The rest of Ten's supporting cast includes his former LAPD partner, a hungry cat, and a new romantic interest. The relationship subplot is marred by an undue amount of psychobabble, mostly from Ten but occasionally from his new girlfriend. Maybe Buddhists living in California feel the need to analyze their intimacy issues on a second date, but I didn't think their tiresome discussions added anything to the story.
Other aspects of The First Rule of Ten are equally troubling, including the notion that a Buddhist who values serenity, who meditates and has a Zen garden, would join the LAPD and indulge a gun fetish. To their credit, the authors make an effort to deal with that incongruity; they just don't do it very convincingly. I was even less convinced of Ten's ability to induce a cat to drop a captured bird by transmitting mental images to the cat, or to surround a dying hospital patient with "a peaceful light." I think the authors may have watched one too many Kung Fu reruns. (At one point there's even a Kung Fu style flashback to Ten's life in the monastery as he recalls a lesson imparted by his monk father.)
As a character in a detective novel, there are times when Ten is too sunshiny for my taste. Maybe he's just too well-adjusted to be credible, despite his unconvincing claim to experience moments of rage. When it comes to Buddhist detectives, I prefer John Burdett's complex, conflicted hero; in contrast, Ten is almost smug in his shallow enlightenment. In fact, Ten is so into himself that I occasionally found the character to be overbearing. Ten also has an annoying fondness for glib aphorisms: pop Buddhism with fortune cookie insight. Toward the end he becomes preachy, imparting a message that is likely intended to be profound but comes across as a page torn from a well-worn self-help book.
Ten's commitment to kindness and serenity is sort of odd given that he behaves like an angry jerk toward his new romantic interest and then feels sorry for himself because he's not living up to his expectations. If that's supposed to humanize Ten, it doesn't work; it just makes him more tedious. Why a man whose life revolves around opening his heart to people can't do so with his new girlfriend is inexplicable (again, the authors attempt an explanation, but fail to concoct one that's credible).
Putting aside my reservations about the construction of the central character, there are some positives about The First Rule of Ten that deserve mention. The book is written in a clear, clean prose style that makes it easy to read. The novel's plot is reasonably entertaining, although a subplot involving the cult is both underdeveloped and predictable. More creative is the evil scheme that Ten uncovers. Whether it is plausible is a different question, but detective/thriller fiction often skates of the edge of plausibility. That part of the plot is at least clever and comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion.
On the whole, The First Rule of Ten pairs a moderately strong story with a weak, annoying character. The novel isn't wholly unlikeable but I wouldn't read another book that features Ten.
The idea of an ex-Tibetan Buddhist monk as an LA detective seemed too cool to pass up, since I like mysteries and have had a longstanding personal and academic interest in Tibet. This book turned out to be quite different from what I expected. Our hero, Tenzing "Ten" Norbu is a 30 year old former monk, born to a Tibetan father and an American-turned-Parisian mother--at the beginning of the book he quits the LAPD to become a P.I., and becomes immediately embroiled the fast-paced and varied plot: murders, environmental crimes, a sinister religious cult and more. Ten is a sensitive, New Age kind of guy with intimacy issues, and has an up-and-down romance with an improbably beautiful and talented girl friend. While the authors get some basic concepts of Buddhism right, their take on Tibetan culture is rather shaky: for example, they think Tibetan tea contains milk and sugar (it is actually made with tea, butter, salt and baking soda), and talk of a monastery as having several abbots (there is only one). More seriously, they add some of the mumbo-jumbo that has too often been associated with Tibet, endowing Ten with psychic abilities, purportedly learned at his monastery; he also has telepathic conversations with his cat, and with his friends back in India (Skype would have been easier). This is all nonsense of course--hopefully, readers will recognize it for the fantasy that it is. I did find it a pleasant light read (skipping over some of the New Age therapeutic and romance parts). However, I still await the great Tibetan-American detective novel--hopefully written by a Tibetan-American or someone close to the culture and the community, who can present Tibetan characters of greater believability than the charming and likeable but mostly generically Californian Ten Norbu.
Most of the reviews are glowing regarding this novel but I am going to have to differ slightly from the rest. Whenever a new detective/private investigator is introduced, there must be a distinguishing characteristic which intrigues the reader enough to hold their interest and look forward to the next book in the series.
Though Tenzing Norbu is interesting in that he is a former monk, police man and now investigator, he simply isn't that fascinating. Yeah, he practices Buddhist theories in his thinking process, his personal interactions and his deduction but neither the story nor he generates enough excitement for me.
I live in the area where the story takes place so when the two authors go through rather detailed and lengthy descriptions of the streets around Southern California, even someone who knows the locale gets tired of the blow by blow review of the road machinations taken by characters.
Tenzing has a cat who makes an occasional appearance to make the lead pet friendly for readers who feel it necessary to integrate a pet into the tale.
The story involves former music stars, cults, mysterious deaths, the mob and more but there is simply no tension or suspense. If there is, it simply didn't come through when I read the book. I'm not saying "The First Rule of Ten" is a bad book. It's just not a very good one. For readers who enjoy gentle mysteries with polite characters and little action, have at it!
I like my mysteries to be page turning and dramatic. This was a little too staid for me but I'm sure it will gather a lot of happy readers who fall into the Alexander McCall Smith genre of story telling.
I purchased this book because of the .99 price on Amazon. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Most E-Books I order at this price are often disappointing. This book was different.
Tenzing, Ten for short is the son of a divorced Tibetan monk and a hippie/alcoholic mother. Ten grows up in a Tibetan Monastery and then leaves for a monastery in LA. As a teacher in the new monastery, Ten is unhappy and finally understands his true calling is that of a detective like his favorite character Sherlock Holmes.
Ten leaves the monastery and eventually becomes a detective. After a short time he is unsettled again and decides to leave the force and strike out on his own as a private detective. His first case involves a friend of a friend who is murdered immediately after leaving a cult she was involved with for 10 years. The story quickly progresses from there.
What I loved about this book was the gentle, almost calming nature of Ten. I enjoyed reading about his meditation rituals and just the way he meditates for a solution. The authors also did a very good job in describing Bill, his ex partner and Mike his go to IT guy.
The only thing in the book that was a bit off putting for me was his relationship with Julie. It was so out of his gentle character to snap at her when she was just trying to get closer to him. It seemed to be completely out of character. When I finished the book I learned that there were two authors who co-wrote the book together. This then made sense to me as I could then clearly pick out each of their voices. I am not saying its a bad thing, but I hope the next book has him stay closer to his character and his beliefs. That's the reason for the 4 star instead of a 5 star.
I found the book refreshingly different than most police procedural's and I look forward to the next book.
on May 21, 2014
These books are okay. The plots are intriguing and resolution is good. The climaxes are well placed and well described. However, the writers have a tendency towards the cute phrase and I find myself annoyed with the romantic aspects. It's not that I dislike romance, but particularly in these scenes the writing gets trite and pompous. The historical aspect of Ten provides a good frame for the present and gives us an interior complexity that makes him interesting, but too much time is spent reminding us of the transcendent view. I can see myself getting tired of this series before I finish all the books.
on January 14, 2014
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I have enjoyed part of it and part of the time I have just skimed pages to get through them. As other reviewers have already said, Tenzing Norbu was a Monk, then Police Officer and not a PI. He follows through on about three different cases that finally end up being one. There is not many pages of action or suspense, it is a book I could put down and leave for a while and come back with no problem. It did not hold my attention. However, I did find parts of it to be calming as Ten related to some of his teachings as a Monk. Statments like, Our thought process happens thousands of times an hour, even while we are asleep. To know this is to be rich.
Ten is an honest person and tries to do what is right. He tries to help people who otherwise might not be helped. His first client is someone who did not hire him, can not pay him because she is dead. But, he wants to find out why and how she died. He feel like he owes her that much.
So I kinda like the book and I kinda don't. For whatever that is worth.
on January 5, 2012
The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay is a surprise. It is surprisingly good. There are a lot of things about this mystery that are unconventional, including the detective it introduces, but I was hooked from the first page.
Tenzing Norbu ("Ten" for short) grew up wanting to become a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. The ambition would not have been that far out of the ordinary, if it weren't for the location where Ten did that growing up. Ten spent his formative years in a Buddhist monastery in Dharamshala, India, where his father expected him to become a monk, just as he was. The fact that Ten was the product of his father's impulsive middle-age marriage to an American college dropout attempting (and failing) to "find herself" on a trip through India (and Europe) didn't seem to matter to his father's plans. Nor did his father understand what role Ten's mother's wanderlust, or her influence, might have had in his makeup.
Not to mention, eight-year-old boys are lousy at obeying mindless rules, never mind teenagers. Ten just wasn't cut out to be a monk. He wanted to be a detective, even if he had no real clue what that meant. But he tried to please his father.
An intervention from a lama when Ten turned 18 sent him to the Buddhist Cultural Center in Los Angeles on an exchange program. From there, his journey took him to a GED program, US Citizenship, and eventually, the LAPD.
But several years after making detective in the police department, Ten is no longer satisfied. He still enjoys police work, what he hates is paperwork, meetings and rules. Most of the same things he disliked in the monastery.
As The First Rule of Ten opens, Ten is wounded while trying to intervene in a domestic disturbance. For Ten, it is the last in a series of signs that tell him it is time to resign from the LAPD and become a private investigator. So he turns in his paperwork and does just that. Ten tells his partner Bill that the incident was a case of his "cosmic alarm clock" telling him it was time for his "job karma" to change. While this wouldn't work for most people, Bill's "job karma" is part of the reason that Ten is making the switch. Bill and his wife have recently had twins, and Bill wants to move into an administrative job and off the street. Their partnership is breaking up whether Ten leaves or not.
As a private investigator, Ten's first case arrives before he has even hung out his "shingle". A woman comes to his door, looking for the previous owner of his house. She's not looking to hire him, she just wants Zimmy's whereabouts, because she's Zimmy's first ex-wife. But Zimmy used to be a big rock-and-roller before he got clean and sober and left LA, and Ten doesn't provide a forwarding address. He can tell the woman is hiding something, maybe a lot of somethings. But when she turns up dead the next morning -- and not just dead, but tortured before she died -- Ten feels like he owes her for not listening to what was wrong. He didn't want to get involved, and now he's involved. He has a case, even if no one is paying.
Ten believes that if he investigates, someone will eventually pay. And someone does, in more ways than one.
And if you're wondering what the The First Rule of Ten actually is, it's "Don't ignore intuitive tickles, lest they reappear as sledgehammers." Words to live by. Or die by.
Escape Rating A-: I started this one night, and re-surfaced over 100 pages into it. I was amazed at how fast I got sucked into Ten's world and his point of view. He's a fascinating character to follow. He retains just enough of his "outsider" perspective to make his perspective and internal voice different from the run-of-the-mill private eye. His choices work for him, but they wouldn't for another detective. His screw-ups are definitely his own, too.
There's a teaser for The Second Rule of Ten in the back of the book. I don't want just a teaser. I want the whole book!
on July 11, 2012
I don't know how this book got such high reviews. That is why I bought it. What a waste of money. I love the character Tenzing and most of the other characters in the story. It's the story that was just so darn stupid (cult, pig farm, life insurance policies, almonds, murders, gratuitous sex) and the ending was just plain dumb. The whole concept of a former monk, former LAPD detective turned PI has such potential. If you can get this book for free, go for it. Don't waste any money on it.
on October 29, 2012
Like another reviewer, I find it hard to understand why there are so many 5 star reviews for this, and I suspect it has more to do with who the authors are (or who the author's writing circle and friends are). The chief issue for me is that the lead characters talks, walks and quacks like a Los Angeles native (or at least an American), not someone who was raised in a VERY different culture. The "Buddhist" references sound more like someone who has read a bit of Eckhart Tolle pop pseudo-Buddhism and thought it was pretty cool, rather than someone who spent formative years immersed in Buddhism.
This could be somewhat forgiven if the character were otherwise well-fleshed or interesting (he isn't) or the story was anything other than a pedestrian cop-turned-PI hard-boiled wannabe (it isn't).
I feel a tad guilty for writing such a negative review, as it is not my wont to slap around authors, but the overly-glowing reviews above really irritated me. I'd love to have read the book they seem to be discussing, rather than this one.
on April 16, 2014
A Tibetan Buddhist monk, who was inspired to become an LAPD
detective by reading Arthur Conan Doyle in his boyhood, resigns to
become a private investigator while maintaining the rituals,
practices and beliefs of the monastery. To put it differently, he
breaks what feel to him like the shackles of rules -- those of the
monastery and those of the LAPD. Sound dull? Not on your life -- or
Tenzing Norbu, Ten to his friends, leaps into life as a self-
employed private investigator using his police academy skills in
tandem with his monastery skills. When his friends ask him what he
will do for money, he laughingly says it will drop from a tree. In
a way it does, along with new friends, new enemies, some new skills
and a solid rooting in old friends in LA and India.
The book has some rough patches here and there. It definitely
requires a suspension of disbelief and it assumes a much greater
familiarity with the geography of Los Angeles than this reviewer
possesses (or wants). There are some cliched plot twists, but they
are balanced by looming cliches that turn out as surprises.
I am looking forward to the second rule.