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As near as one can tell, Lionel Davidson has had a career marked by totally random spasms of success.  He had a best seller several years ago (1994) with the excellent thriller Kolymsky Heights a sort of male version of Smilla's Sense of Snow.  So I went back and read his earlier, much earlier, books and they were uniformly excellent.  But he appears to write at a fairly stately pace, reminiscent of Thomas Harris, so the books are few and far between.

Rose of Tibet tells the story of Charles Houston, a footloose school teacher who goes to India in 1950 in search of his half brother who disappeared along with several other members of a film crew.  Houston discovers that the film crew vanished into Tibet, which is facing tremendous pressure from Communist China.  Houston secures a Sherpa guide & makes his own illegal entry into the forbidden country.  He proceeds to get involved with ancient prophecies, religious disputes, Chinese/Tibetan political clashes and four sacks of emeralds.

Were it not for a truly ponderous narrative structure, the story is told by a fictional Lionel Davidson who is a book editor, this would be a thriller of the highest rank.  As is, it scores a tier below Davidson's own high standard as set in Kolymsky Heights which I highly recommend.


Grade: (B+)



See also:

Lionel Davidson (2 books reviewed)
Book-related and General Links:
    -Lionel Davidson (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -REVIEW : of KOLYMSKY HEIGHTS By Lionel Davidson (James Carroll, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Kolymsky Heights (Mystery Guide)
    -Real Audio REVIEW: Rose of Tibet (NPR, Alan Cheuse)
    -AWARDS : Dagger Awards (

If you liked Rose of Tibet, try:

Easterman, Daniel
    -The Ninth Buddha

Hopkirk, Peter
    -The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

Kipling, Rudyard
    -Kim (Read Orrin's review, Grade: A)
    -The Man Who Would Be King


I read Rose of Tibet years ago when I was still commuting to work on the NYC subway system. The writing was so good and intense that I had to close the book during the escape scene--just couldn't get my breath--and start in again later. I think Davidson is a terrific writer and like you say his books are few and far between so I was thrilled when Kolymsky Heights came out. Hope he produces another book soon before I die!

- freddi

- Aug-26-2008, 11:51