Hidden Buddha: Lama Rinzen in the Hungry Ghost Realm
Jim Ringel introduced the delightfully insightful, sincere, and tenacious character of Lama Rinzen in 49 Buddhas: Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm, a murder mystery/Buddhist philosophy mashup that combined an intriguing puzzle with a deeply unusual premise. A spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Lama Rinzen is working through a series of reincarnations in the six realms so that he can learn each realm’s lesson and move toward enlightenment. In his first outing, Lama Rinzen was reincarnated as a Denver cop tasked with solving the murder of a hated insurance magnate.
Now, having learned the lesson of the Hell Realm, in Hidden Buddha: Lama Rinzen in the Hungry Ghost Realm, Lama Rinzen is reincarnated as Doctor Rinzen, the new locum tenens at the slightly sinister Humboldt Hospital. By way of a change, Doctor Rinzen is a Caucasian female, which prompts Rinzen to ponder if the lesson in this new realm will involve learning self-acceptance. However, it soon emerges that the Hungry Ghost Realm has something far more frightening and dangerous in store.
One of the first people Rinzen meets upon arrival at Humboldt Hospital is a young girl named Claudia, who immediately makes a number of troubling statements: “Out in the parking lot. She was watching you.” There has been no one in the parking lot when Rinzen arrived, so who could have been watching? Claudia doesn’t provide much clarification: “Tell her she has to stop. She’s ugly. And she scares me.” While most of the hospital’s patients are being evacuated to nearby institutions due to a forthcoming snowstorm, Claudia, several other patients with complex needs, and a core group of staff will be staying behind, and Rinzen will be staying with them.
Rinzen is adamant about not believing in ghosts, but being trapped in Humboldt during the snowstorm leaves the lama with little choice but to explore the significance of Claudia’s “ghosts” and what they could mean for the pursuit of enlightenment.
Hidden Buddha presents another intriguing mystery for Lama Rinzen to solve, although this time, it’s more in the horror line than the straightforward murder mystery. There are ghosts of both the literal and metaphorical kinds haunting the corridors of Humboldt Hospital, causing staff and patients to disappear and seeking to keep Rinzen trapped in the realm. There’s a distinctly spooky atmosphere to the story from the outset, and the sense of dread builds as things progress. Unfortunately, Rinzen also has to contend with more than a few menacing humans too, which adds to the story’s tension.
Ringel once again succeeds in weaving matters of Buddhist philosophy into the mystery confronting Rinzen, and readers of Hidden Buddha may well find themselves questioning their own thoughts and beliefs at the same time as attempting to unravel the various puzzles that comprise the story.
|Black Bee Publishing
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