Chen is directed to work with U.S. Marshall, Catherine Rohn, in finding Wen and keeping her safe until she can fly out of
Chen would prefer to investigate the apparent triad murder in the Park but accepts it is his duty to undertake the new assignment. Beyond his swiftly rising status within the police his English language skills make him a logical liaison for Rohn. She has also gained the assignment partly because of her language proficiency. She speaks Chinese fluently.
While ostensibly given wide authority to conduct the investigation, Chen is further directed to keep Rohn occupied in
. Clearly the Party does not want Rohn roaming Shanghai seeking information on her own. Shanghai
Needing to know why Wen has disappeared Chen dispatches his colleague and friend, Yu, to
. Chen has concerns over the efforts of the local police. Fujian
Wen is a resident of
because of the consequences of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. As a teenager she was sent to the countryside to work with the peasants and be re-educated. There is a striking poem within the book about her when she was a beautiful teenager departing from the Fujian he is performing the only acceptable dance of the era, a loyal character dance. The poem's author remembers: Shanghai train station. In the poem s
.... Her hair streamed
into the dark eye of the sun.
A leap, her skirt
like a blossom, and the heart
jumped out of her hand, fluttering
like a flushed pheasant. A slip -
I rushed to its rescue, when she
caught it - a finishing touch
to her performance. The people
roared. I froze. She took my hand,
waving, our fingers branching
into each other, as if my blunder
were a much rehearsed act, as if
the curtain fell on the world
in a peice of white paper
to set off the red heart, in which
I was the boy, she, the girl.
As Chen expected Yu soon finds the
police have made but perfunctory efforts to find Wen. Yu determines she received a phone call in the village from her husband in Fujian warning her to flee. The pregnant Wen leaves the village. America
Both Chen and Rohn have concerns about the security of their police organizations.
Chen, while recognizing there are international consequences if Wen is not found, must tread delicately. Triads are involved. Their influence has penetrated throughout the restaurants and clubs of
and is reaching into official Shanghai . China
Chen uses past connections and establishes new links to gain information. Rohn occasionally provides unexpected insights. (They have an unusual relationship by Western fiction standards. They do not sleep together immediately after meeting.)
At the same time Chen quietly looks for information related to the Park murder.
The mystery is an insightful journey through a booming Chinese economy filled with new capitalists but also full of traditions. Chen and Rohn face dangers, sometimes more subtle than in the West, as they move forward.
Chen often quotes Chinese sayings and poetry. They add imagery uncommon in crime literature. Considering the transitory nature of our lives, he quotes a poet:
Life is like the footprint left by a solitary crane in the snow,
visible only for one moment, and then gone.