The seeds of the night sky grew in Tibet. There the stars were the thickest, the dark blackest, the heavens closest. People looked up and cried without knowing why. Prisoners sometimes stole from their huts...to lie on the ground silently watching the heavens. The year before at the [gulag] an old priest had been found in such a position one morning, frozen, his dead eyes fixed on the sky. He had written two words in the snow at his side. Catch me.
That's the opening of a chapter in Eliot Pattison's The Skull Mantra, the first book in the Inspector Shan Tao Yun series, which is more or less a noir detective series set in contemporary Tibet. The "Inspector" isn't one, not any more, having gotten himself crosswise with higher-ups by solving crimes without due attention to political concerns and been sent off to an indefinite sentence in a "work camp" in Tibet. He has been there some years by the first book in the series, when the prisoners uncover a headless, recently-murdered body while building a road. Suddenly, there's a need for an investigator, one who can be counted on to be discreet, and Shan finds himself with no choice but to cooperate.
I started with a book much farther along in the series. It was on sale and the sample looked interesting. It turned out to be outstanding, so I circled back to the first book. I'm about halfway through and it holds up. The background is an absolutely unflinching portrait of Tibet under the Chinese government, neither sugar-coated nor played for pathos, and Shan's deft but hopeless manipulation of the various authorities is skillfully drawn. I recommend the two books I've seen so far, and I have every reason to believe the rest of the series is as good.