Dr. Margaret Campbell is in Beijing to teach a six week forensic pathology course at the police academy. Her specialty is identifying burned bodies. When three dead bodies turn up, one of them completely burned, Margaret is asked to do the autopsies. Lead detective on the case is Li Yan, a newly promoted Deputy Section Chief, who is trying to live up to the reputation of his uncle who is a bit of a legend in the Beijing police. All three bodies are identified as professional hits yet do not seem to have anything else in common. Cultures clash as Margaret, an American, doesn't understand the proper etiquette for dealing with her Chinese associates. She and Li Yan need to ignore their growing attraction to find out who killed these men and why.
Forensic pathology plays a strong role in the solution to the crime. Details of the autopsies are done with clinical precision and, as a medical doctor, Margaret is able to provide detailed scientific explanations of health issues, uses of medications, and the dangers of dabbling with Mother Nature.
I especially liked the way May used Margaret to demonstrate how not to behave in China. Margaret responded to situations in a way that I feel is typically American. I am certain I would have made the same mistakes. As Margaret begins to understand the Chinese culture and history, so does the reader.
If you get a chance to see May during his tour, you must do so. You will enjoy listening to tales of his research trips to China with stories of strange foods and mysterious limo rides into spy compounds. But, regardless whether you get that opportunity, this is definitely a book you shouldn't miss. There are five more books in this series that have been published in the UK. We can sincerely hope for an accelerated release schedule in the US to get us quickly caught up with this wonderful author.