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by Paul Adam
Time Warner Books, October 2004
496 pages
ISBN: 0751534862

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

FLASH POINT is an adventure story set in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has died. Buddhist monks slip illegally into Tibet to find his reincarnation. A photojournalist comes along to record the search. Simple, right? Wrong. The story grows and grows.

Maggie Walsh is a photojournalist. Her life is at best unstable. She flits from place to place, often visiting areas of the world that are desolate and brutal. She must be tough and resourceful. Her only friends are fellow journalists.

Maggie returns to her flat in London after her last assignment took her to Columbia photographing the continuing guerrilla warfare. She's looking forward to a bath and a little time to recuperate. Maggie receives a telephone call that may mean the scoop of her career. The Dalai Lama is very ill and may be dying. If she can get to India in time, she may be the first westerner to cover the story.

Maggie does reach India in time and she does record the death of the Dalai Lama, but she is discovered before she can get the pictures out of the country. Her camera and film are confiscated by Tsering, a Buddhist monk and she is put in jail for a week.

Tsering is a tulku -- the reincarnation of a devout lama who had died several years earlier. Being chosen was a great privilege and brought great honor to him and to his family. He was able to enter a monastery, to learn to read and write and to serve the Buddha. He is chosen, along with other Buddhist monks, to return to Tibet to find the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

During the week Maggie is out of touch, Tsering and other Buddhist monks slip into Tibet looking for signs that will lead them to the Dalai Lama's reincarnation. When Maggie is released from jail, she slips into Tibet to cover the reaction of the people to the Dalai Lama's death. She meets the monks and realizes this is another chance for that big scoop she's been looking for. The monks soon realize that Maggie is wise in ways they are not -- fixing cars, running from the authorities, finding places to hide. An uneasy alliance is made between them.

Adam has a smooth writing style. Every word counts. He adds depth and interest to the story by bringing together the personal histories of the Buddhist monks and the photojournalist. He never lets the characterizations get too out of hand. The true action and spirit of the book is the people of Tibet. The reader learns a little about Buddhism;the history of the occupation of the country by China; and the continuing politics that has the West more interested in currying favor with China than with the brutal repression and the wanton systematic destruction of a whole culture.

FLASH POINT isn't a thriller. Maybe the underlying Buddhist influence maintains an underlying calm feeling to the story. Tibet is an amazing, mystical place. The Tibetans are a people with amazing perseverance who will not give up. Adam brings it all alive.

Reviewed by Lane Wright, December 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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