In modern China, where computers are as common as rickshaws once were, Anzuang Wang finds that being a good policeman is a complex matter. Not that it was ever easy. And, clearly, Beijing’s current bureaucracy remains dedicated to the principle that “the Great Wall of official unhelpfulness” must continue unscaled. Still, when Wang’s cherished sister-in-law Fragrant Flower goes missing, he has no choice but to try the wall yet again. The New Church of the Heavenly Kingdom, a cult few seem at all informed about, has apparently impressed Fragrant Flower with its mysteries. Therefore, the Religious Affairs Bureau is the only sensible place to begin a serious search for her. Wearily, Wang applies to the Bureau for help, and, to his considerable surprise, enough small nuggets of information are actually, perhaps mistakenly, dislodged to allow him to track her down. When he reaches what he thinks is the end of his search, however, he discovers that Fragrant Flower (Julie Lin in her skeptical westernized persona) has become a truly ardent believer—so ardent that she attempts to convert Wang. But then suddenly the order’s founder, Golden Master, is no more, and there are just too many juicy motives around for a smart cop to believe in accidental death.
The ending’s a bit ragged, but West (Death of a Blue Lantern, not reviewed) makes everyday Beijing a believable place and honorable, amiable Detective Wang a sturdy protagonist.