It’s a case no homicide investigator in his right mind would want to handle—eight bodies mutilated beyond all recognition, shackled together and writhing with the tide in a bizarre choreography of death on the mudflats of the Huangpu River. No morgue will admit the corpses. The evidence is just too clear—the brutality of the killings, the scalpel-precision of the lacerations—there is little doubt that the Party is behind this. Impeded at every turn by bureaucratic obstacles, intimidation, and surveillance, Piao must fall back on his own resources to find those responsible for the murders—whose victims, he shortly finds, have no identities. He knows he should walk away from this case, to do otherwise is a violation of every survival instinct he possesses, but above the shouted warnings and veiled threats he hears the call of the dead to be avenged. And as a cog in the cadre system that rules modern China, a society whose darkest side is closed off to outsiders but all too apparent to its citizens, he’s had to walk away from too many things, too many times.
Joined by Yaobang, his boisterously faithful and foul-mouthed deputy, and given a narrow mandate to proceed in his investigation by his chief, Piao discovers that one of the victims was a young American archaeologist, and he is soon joined in his investigation by the victim’s mother, Barbara Hayes, a politician impelled to find her son’s killer. With each new clue, a new dimension of the Chinese political system is cracked open, resulting in a vortex of conflicting leads traced to a heart-stopping climax.
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