A pair of former lovers are forced into an uneasy working relationship by a series of gruesome murders.
Forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell is heading stateside when the embassy calls on her to help investigate the death of one of their employees, Yuan Tao, the fourth in a series of mysterious decapitations. Margaret, deeply in love with Chinese police detective Li Yan, is bitter at his dropping her after they solved his last case, not knowing that Li, who was ordered to break off the relationship, deeply regrets his choice of career over love. Charismatic archaeologist and TV personality Michael Zimmerman introduces Margaret to the treasures of China, especially the thousands of terra-cotta figures discovered at Xi’an. In between throwing barbs at each other, Li and Margaret discover several clues. Yuan was killed by the same weapon and method as the other three but not by the same person. The earlier victims had hounded Yuan’s father to death during the Cultural Revolution. Now three more remain on the death list. Margaret has decided to go home and consider Michael’s marriage proposal when she discovers the meaning of a clue left at the murder scenes. After Margaret, Li, Michael and the killer all meet in a secret chamber, only two leave alive.
May’s second look at China past and present (The Firemaker, 2005, etc.) is an electrifying mixture of mystery, romance and history.