High-level corruption and the chaos of modern China darken the perilous life of an honest policeman investigating a gruesome multiple murder.
Accompanied by his trusty, perpetually hungry sidekick Yaobang, Senior Investigator Sun Piao slogs across the muddy shore of Shanghai’s Huangpu River to face a nauseating sight. Eight bodies lie chained together, each corpse violated in the same disgusting way. Their eyeballs are gone, their fingertips have been clipped off, and they appear to have been eviscerated. Piao has immediate warning that this is going to be a political as well as criminal nightmare when Party officials show up and warn him off the case and the tame medical investigator plays dumb. Refusing to be spooked, Piao goes outside channels and sends the bodies to a meat locker for investigation by Yaobang’s young brother, a terrified med student. Piao seems a little slower than the average reader to understand that the missing kidneys and hearts have to do with one of China’s growth industries, medical transplants. He may be excused, as the pace of perpetrators to eliminate the evidence is fast and violent. The bodies disappear when the meat locker is torched and its owner, Piao’s cousin Chen, and Yaobang’s brother are butchered, but not before Piao gets the postmortem and learns that four of the victims were jailbirds, two of them American, and one a pregnant female. One of the Americans was Robby Hayes, whose mother Barbara, an American mandarin, inserts herself in the case and into Piao’s unlucky love life. Evidence leads Piao to his own superior and even further up to the aged Party grandee who stole Piao’s beautiful young wife. Even when he is framed for murder and ordered off the case, Piao pursues and perseveres, narrowing in on a suave British surgeon with seemingly impenetrable protection.
A masterly depiction of modern Shanghai and an admirable hero fall victim to excessive length and intrusive, improbable American politics.