Friday, November 07, 2008

The Dharma King by B. J. Stroh

The Dharma King
By B. J. Stroh
Copyright 2008
187 pages

Sam looked down at his watch, which was unconcerned by the obscene time change and events of the day. The hands told him it was almost midnight in Kathmandu. When time is it in California? Sam's mind searched, as if a slight wrist turn and ruminating on base twelve numbers could connect him to a world that ceased to exist the moment he rubbed his sleep-swollen eyes halfway across the world. How quickly the familiar world can slip away into a dark corner.

The Dharma King tells the story of Samuel Falk Simms, Jr. Newly graduated from college and heir to his father's vast financial empire, Sam decides to celebrate his graduation by booking a trip to Kathmandu on impulse. Hung over from a night of partying, he falls asleep on the flight and, upon waking, finds that his seatmate is a Buddhist monk. The monk tells Sam about the search for the new Panchen Lama, a special child whose reincarnated life is crucial to Tibetan Buddhists. The Panchen Lama may be the last hope for Tibetan Buddhism; but, a cruel Chinese Colonel is rushing to find him first -- to kill the child and quench hope for a struggling, occupied nation.

Just off the plane to Kathmandu, Sam finds himself at the heart of the search when he is snatched up by the evil Colonel Zhang and threatened, his bag searched. In a hidden pocket is the map that will lead to the young boy. But, will Sam be able to find him first, or will Colonel Zhang and his vicious friends find the new Panchen Lama and destroy hope for a dying culture?

I absolutely loved this book. It's occasionally a bit horrifying and a tiny bit gruesome, but otherwise a suspenseful and better-than-average thriller, in my humble opinion. Sam is sensitive and caring. He has lived an easy life, for the most part, with one major exception. And, it is that one huge mistake that haunts him and leads him to seek redemption and peace.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was the romance. I found Sam's romantic interest a unique character and liked her, at first, but then it seemed like she became a bit of a lifeless platform for Buddhism. Otherwise, a little bit of a sagging middle and then it became exciting, again. The writing isn't perfect. Had someone handed me this manuscript to edit, I would have scratched out that bit about the watch and simply had Sam go from looking at the time (ditch the bit about an inanimate object being unconcerned) to musing about California, for example, but that's just me being picky. I'd choose his writing over Dan Brown, if that means anything to you at all.

Definitely recommended for those looking for a unique thriller and don't mind a tiny bit of preaching about Buddhism. I enjoyed the bits some may consider preachy, actually, because I felt like I learned a bit about the region and the importance of its ancient religion.

Now reading:

The Integrity Dividend by Tony Simons (business) - I'm about halfway through this one and loving it. The author talks about studies that prove managerial integrity increases profitability. Hope to review this one by Sunday.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (YA) - A great, quirky set of characters, a bit of teenage angst and a road trip. Loads of fun, so far. Also about halfway through this one.

Grit for the Oyster by Various Authors (NF) - Writing advice from published Christian/inspirational authors. I'm about 1/4 of the way through this one. It's packed with uplifting quotes and a nice, quick read, so far.

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption (Mystery) - A nice, gritty crime novel with a recurring P.I. character (I haven't read the others in the series). Just started this one and I can tell it's going to be a great change of pace.

Messy, but true:


  1. Even I found that part about that watch - seemingly boring lol! but then the book sounds interesting :)

    I ahve not read about Buddhism at all... so may be this book will do me good too! thanks!

  2. Veens,

    That probably wasn't the best passage to post, but I liked the last sentence a lot and the rest of the time I was so enthralled that I kept forgetting to reach for the post-its. LOL

    I haven't read much about Buddhism, either. I really liked reading about it and would love to read a bit of history, now, just to learn more.

  3. I have this one on my TBR pile! I got a review copy of it and I can't wait to get to it, especially after your review. I've always enjoyed books centered around Buddhism. Glad to see you're reading an Abundance of Katherines! Hope it remains good. It's on my wishlist. Right now I have Paper Towns on my nightstand waiting for me!

  4. Chris,

    I actually thought about you as I was reading The Dharma King. It'll be fun to see what you think. I'm loving An Abundance of Katherines. Paper Towns is on my wish list! Katherines is a library check-out -- which I really shouldn't do, but you know . . . sometimes you cave. I decided I couldn't wait, after reading several enthusiastic reviews (including yours) of his books. I think I have a new author crush. :)

  5. This sounds like a neat book. I am a fan of thrillers, but Steve is the Buddhism fan.

  6. Not really up my alley but it does sound unique! Glad you enjoyed it so much.

  7. J. Kaye,

    Well, maybe you can share a copy and when it gets too thrilling he can pass it to you. When it gets to Buddhist, you can pass it back. LOL


    Not my typical reading, either, but I found it a nice change of pace. Now and then, I try to toss in some unusual reads. Thanks. :)

  8. I don't think I would have chosen this book to read if I'd seen it in the library or a bookstore, even after reading the front flap. Your review, however peaked my interest. I like thrillers, as you know. Also, I have a nephew who is looking into Buddhism and I would like to know more about the religion. I'm sure my husband would be interested in reading this book, too. Sounds like I have enough reason to buy it, don't you thing? (said gleefully, with a hint of 'I've talked myself into it')

  9. Booklogged,

    I do believe you just talked yourself into something, there. LOL I really enjoyed this book. Thrillers are not something I read often, but they're a great way to shake up the reading, now and then, and inject a little excitement. Your nephew may know more than the author mentioned about Buddhism. I'm pretty ignorant, to be honest. But, I felt like I learned about how important the religious ties are to the region and it was fun reading. :)

  10. Hmmm, so you use post-it notes to track passages you like/dislike? and why is checking out a library book something you probably shouldn't do? just wonderin', is all...

  11. Care,

    Yep, I buy blocks of little post-its and mark squillions of passages. I mean checking out a library book is something I shouldn't do *now* because, a.) I own thousands of my own books and b.) I have a bunch of ARCs to finish up. But, on the other hand, it's that thrill of finding something unexpected that gives oomph to the reading. If I read just ARCs, even if I'm enjoying them, I go into a slump. So weird.

  12. This one sounds fascinating!

  13. Bermudaonion,

    I really enjoyed it!

  14. I like the sound of this one! Thanks!

  15. Jenclair,

    It's a really fun read!

  16. Jenclair,

    It's a really fun read!


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