A Venetian Investigator for the Mongol Emperor is given a difficult case to solve.
In 1268, with most of China ruled by the Mongols, Nick Zuliani and his colleague Lin Chu-Tsai are given a task that sets them up for failure. Now that a young woman has been convicted of murdering her future father-in-law, her sentence is put on hold while Nick and Lin (City of the Dead, 2008, etc.) investigate. Lin is sure that his enemy Ko Su-Tsung has put them in a no-win situation: If they prove the girl innocent, they will be insulting a highly placed Mongol official. They set off on the two-week trip accompanied by Nick’s lover Gurbesu, a Pole whose village was overrun by Mongols, and a Venetian Friar. Upon arriving, they interview the girl, her adoptive mother, who treats her like a slave, and the murdered man’s son, who wants to marry his father’s accused killer. They identify the poison added to the old man’s soup as aconite but still can’t determine who put it there. Nick is adept at running scams, usually to fatten his purse, but this time he must pull off the biggest scam of all to get them out of a dangerous trap and identify a murderer.
Nick’s second case is best read for the historical detail rather than the ponderous mystery.