Partnered by a seasoned, tough American cop, Field learns that the dead girl is one of a string of sexual slayings, all Russian prostitutes belonging to Chinese mob boss Lu Huang. Falling for another of Huang's Russian girls and bewildered by his department's complacency in accommodating the crime boss, Field ignores myriad warnings and plunges into Shanghai's underworld, determined to track the serial killer and bring down Huang.
Like a Russian nesting doll, the plot's layers split to reveal new layers. Cracks lead into every aspect of the city's ruling life, exposing the ruthless ascendancy of greed. Bradby packs in enough historical atmosphere to be dizzying - the rising communist sympathies, the frictions between British and French, exploited by the Chinese, the secret-harboring expatriates of colonial life and the flourishing lure of decadence, to name a few. Bradby occasionally grows overwrought melding his intricate plot with the intricate history, but both draw in the reader and the ending, while unlikely, is satisfying.