Flinders-Petrie is a pioneer in the use of ley lines. Through trial and error, he has learned to navigate the lines to go where he wants when he wants. He has documented his findings as a map tattooed on his torso. After his death, the map is removed and preserved as a thin piece of parchment, the skin map of the novel's title. We enter Flinders-Petrie's story as he arrives in Maccau, China to have a new tattoo added to the map. This addition records directions to the Well of Souls, which Flinders-Petrie describes as "the ultimate prize, . . . the greatest treasure ever known" (p. 132). To Wu Chen Hu--the tattooist who has recorded all the maps in his unique, vivid blue ink--the designs are "a tightly controlled swash of abstract ciphers. . . , elegant in their own way as the Pinyin script was elegant, but utterly devoid of any comprehensible meaning" (p. 132). Burleigh makes his first appearance, interrupting the tattoo session to invite Flinders-Petrie to dinner to discuss mutual business interests. Chen Hu is suspicious of Burleigh but remains reticent. Dinner turns out to be a trap. Burleigh knows about Flinders-Petrie's discoveries and requests that he and Flinders-Petrie form a partnership. When Flinders-Petrie refuses, Burleigh decides to acquire the map by force. Only the intervention of Chen Hu and his daughter Xian-Li save Flinders-Petrie from being killed and skinned.
|The Foundation Stone above the|
|Well of Souls.|
So, what is the Well of Souls? According to Wikipedia, the "Well of Souls is a natural cave located immediately beneath the Foundation Stone, under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem." When Burleigh presses Cosimo for an answer, Cosimo calls it a myth with Jewish, Arab, and Egyptian versions, but none agree on its nature or location. Cosimo continues:
Some tales have it that the well is an earthly place, an underground region where the souls of the dead congregate to await the coming Judgement. Others hold it to be a heavenly place where the souls of those not yet born await their call to life in this world (p. 336).
But in Lawhead's universe, it appears to be something more. Flinders-Petrie tells an Egyptian priest that the Well of Souls is beyond Sirius--the Dog Star--and that he will take his wife Xian-Li--who has just died of an acute fever--to the Well of Souls in a last attempt to heal her or, more accurately, bring her back from the dead. Lawhead does not give us a difinitive answer.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of The Skin Map from the publisher.
To learn more about the author, visit his website at http://www.stephenlawhead.com/.
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