Rites of Sacrifice

Windsor Chorlton, Author
Windsor Chorlton, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (458p) ISBN 978-0-312-03923-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990
Release date: 03/01/1990
A sparkling debut, this immensely readable, evocative novel is set in the Far East in 1970, a turbulent year that saw the U.S. mired in Vietnam and China torn by the Cultural Revolution. In Japan, burned-out, semi-alcoholic anthropologist Walter Melville reluctantly agrees to serve as interpreter for an operation that will smuggle a defecting Chinese general out of his country through Tibet and then to Taiwan. Very much in the British tradition, the narrative in its early stages is replete with enigmatic yet pointed conversations that leave both the hero and the reader somewhat befuddled yet intrigued. Meeting in Nepal with a British paramedic who has joined the rescue mission without knowing its true purpose, and high in the snow-covered Himalayas under the spell of a charismatic rebel general, Melville becomes increasingly aware that many unspoken objectives complicate the already dangerous endeavor. An implied pattern of treachery stretches back to the mysterious freelance intelligence operative who recruited him for the mission. The author reportedly spent two years in the Himalayas researching his story; his depiction of time and place is extraordinarily vivid, contributing to a thriller that is truly exciting right down to its cold and bitter ending. (Mar.)
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