imagesReviewed by Drennan Spitzer

The First Rule of Ten and The Second Rule Of Ten are the first two volumes of Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay’s Tenzing Norbu series. Tenzing, or “Ten,” Norbu is a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department who, in his early 30s, has left the department in order to become a private detective. Significantly, Ten spent his formative years training in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. Accordingly, Ten struggles to integrate his Buddhist practices with a fast-paced life in the seemingly superficial world of Southern California.

In many ways, Hendricks and Lindsay write a typical detective character in Ten: he has difficulty with interpersonal relationships, particularly romantic ones; he feels alienated from the culture that surrounds him; he may even be tottering on the edge of alcoholism. Rather than making this series feel derivative, however, this gives readers a sense of familiarity. We know what to expect from Ten as a character, because we know what to expect from this genre. This series is like a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Ten’s literary hero, and the Los Angeles film noir.

Keeping in mind these literary antecedents, it’s also worth noting what it is that Hendricks and Tinker do to push the genre of the detective novel in new directions. Specifically, in Tenzing, the authors have created a character who, in his attempt to merge Buddhist philosophies and practices with a Western way of life, gives us a portrait of what a practicing Buddhist might look like in our own culture. Ten meditates, eats vegetarian, muses on philosophy and metaphysics, and seeks his own kind of enlightenment. At the same time, he is anything but perfect as he struggles with the issues he has with his parents, his own selfishness, and even a kind of materialism, all elements that provide a challenge to his Buddhism. The authors’ incorporation of Buddhist thought could easily become forced and heavy-handed, but for the most part, this works well because it’s simply a natural extension of Ten’s character.

Well written, this series should appeal to the reader who appreciates a good murder mystery. This is not the cozy mystery of Agatha Christie, however, but a new take on the Los Angeles noir detective in the tradition of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, with a healthy dose of Buddhism.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Drennan Spitzer is a writer and blogger from California who now resides in New England. She writes creatively, blogs publicly, and journals privately. You can find her at http://drennanspitzer.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gay Hendricks & Tinker Lindsay. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.