Former dancer and party loyalist Wen Liping vanishes in rural China just before she was to leave the country. Her husband, a key witness against a smuggling ring suspected of importing aliens to the US, refuses to testify until she is found and brought to join him in America.
A few days later, a badly mutilated body turns up in Shanghai's Bund Park. It bears all the hallmarks of a triad killing.
The US immigration agency, convinced that the Chinese government are hiding something, send US Marshal Catherine Rohn to Shanghai to join the investigation.
Inspector Chen, an astute young policeman with twin passions for food and poetry, is under political pressure to find answers fast. When Catherine Rohn joins him he must decide what is more dangerous: to hide the truth, or to risk unleashing a scandal that could destroy his career.