Chinese history from the perspective of a royal concubine, a eunuch, a family of tomb raiders and even the Chairman himself.
Although Toronto antiques dealer Lara McClintoch (The Orkney Scroll, 2006, etc.) is prepared to spend up to $500,000 to obtain a T’ang Dynasty silver box for her friend and client Dory Zhang, the auction house removes it from the sale at the last moment, to the disappointment of Lara and the chagrin of rival bidder Burton Haldimand, acting on behalf of the Cottingham Museum, philanthropist/collector Xie Jinghe and a young Asian in knockoff Hugo Bass duds. When Dory dies, her will, which stipulates that Lara is to pursue the box wherever it reappears, sends her out on the next plane to Beijing and the Cherished Treasure Auction House, where Haldimand and Dr. Xie stand by, still coveting the box, which is stolen on the eve of the sale. Rather than return home immediately, as he said he intended, Haldimand scours the antique stalls seeking clues to its whereabouts. He winds up in X’ian, the capital of the T’ang Dynasty. Lara follows, as does murder.
Hamilton, who rivals Jan Morris as a travel writer, gives her eunuch Wu Yuan such a mesmerizing story about serving the Imperial Palace and the Son of Heaven that it’s a bit of a thud to be brought back to the problems of contemporary households.