When an American businessman slips into a muddy hole at a photo op for a new joint-venture building in Shanghai, he finds himself surrounded by body parts that spell even more trouble for a visiting sleuth.
Superstar detective Li Yan is sent to Shanghai to solve the politically sensitive case because he’s been working a similar unsolved case in Beijing. His colleague Mei-Ling, a bright but troubled detective, promptly makes a play for him. Dissatisfied with the autopsies, Li puts in a request for the services of his lover, Dr. Margaret Campbell, currently in Chicago for her father’s funeral. She’s only too happy to return to China, where her forthright style, as usual (The Fourth Sacrifice, 2007, etc.), bruises a few egos. Naturally, she and Mei-Ling, as rivals for Li’s affections, are instantly antagonistic. Margaret discovers that the female victims have had their organs skillfully removed while still alive, then were hacked to pieces. The major suspect is a medical student who was the night watchman at the building site. As the detectives labor to identify the bodies, Li is torn between his growing fondness for Mei-Ling, his exasperation with Margaret, who does not fit the Chinese mold, and his annoyance with the powers that be, who seem bent on hampering his investigation.
Li and Campbell’s fine third case provides thrills, chills and a window into current Chinese lifestyles.