An acclaimed Chinese writer makes his English language debut with this heart-stopping literary noir, a richly atmospheric tale of espionage and international intrigue, set in Shanghai in 1931—an electrifying, decadent world of love, violence, and betrayal filled with femme fatales, criminals, revolutionaries, and spies.
A boat from Hong Kong arrives in Shanghai harbor, carrying an important official in the Nationalist Party and his striking wife, Leng. Amid the raucous sound of firecrackers, gunshots ring out; an assassin has shot the official and then himself. Leng disappears in the ensuing chaos.
Hseuh, a Franco-Chinese photographer aboard the same boat, became captivated by Leng’s beauty and unconcealed misery. Now, she is missing. But Hsueh is plagued by a mystery closer to home: he suspects his White Russian lover, Therese, is unfaithful. Why else would she disappear so often on their recent vacation? When he’s arrested for mysterious reasons in the French Concession and forced to become a police collaborator, he realizes that in the seamy, devious world of Shanghai, no one is who they appear to be.
Coerced into spying for the authorities, Hseuh discovers that Therese is secretly an arms dealer, supplying Shanghai’s gangs with weapons. His investigation of Therese eventually leads him back to Leng, a loyal revolutionary with ties to a menacing new gang, led by a charismatic Communist whose acts of violence and terrorism threaten the entire country.
His aptitude for espionage draws Hseuh into a dark underworld of mobsters, smugglers, anarchists, and assassins. Torn between Therese and Leng, he vows to protect them both. As the web of intrigue tightens around him, Hsueh plays a dangerous game, hoping to stay alive.