“A fascinating, sweeping combination of history and travelogue…”


Eric Enno Tamm’s The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China (Douglas & McIntyre) is a fascinating, sweeping combination of history and travelogue.

Tamm takes as his starting point Baron Gustaf Mannerheim, one of those intriguing footnote figures: Russian spy, last Regent of Finland, the recipient of a birthday visit from Adolf Hitler.

On July 6, 1906, Mannerheim set out on a secret mission, charged by Nicholas II to report on China’s increasing power. The Baron traveled through Central Asia on the ancient Silk Road connecting East and West.

Exactly one hundred years later, Tamm duplicated as closely as possible Mannerheim’s journey. Along the way, he visited Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, encountering despotic, brutal regimes, allies of the West in the so-called War on Terror. The area’s plentiful oil and gas reserves also helps in making friends.

Then Tamm finds his way to China itself as he addresses the same questions as Mannerheim did: what kind of role will China play in the contemporary world?

Tamm has also put together an impressive website for this compulsively readable book (www.horsethatleaps.com) with maps and some of the three thousand photographs he took on the trip.