But faced with the grisly proposition that the murdered women have been subjected to "live" autopsies, the three realise they are tracking a monster of inhuman capacity.
And the closer they get to this ruthlessly cold-blooded killer, the closer they come to realising their own personal nightmares. Towers of steel and glass rise into the mist around him, insubstantial and wraith like.
They remind him of something strangely incongruous. A remote and rugged coastline on the northwest extremes of Europe. A trip made in search of his roots to a distant Scottish island, where fingers of stone reach for the sky in strange circular arrangements. Standing stones raised in worship to who knows what God.
Beyond the colossal pagoda-like Jin Mao Tower, its peak lost in cloud, more towers loom out of the misted distance, rising from the ashes of Mao's dream of a communist utopia. The once desolate marshlands of Pudong, fed by their privileged status of 'special economic zone', now sprout tower blocks like weeds, watched in wonder by the Shanghainese across the river, a whole generation thinking, what next? The American looks up at these twenty-first century standing stones, and knows that the only God worshipped by those who raised them is Money.
And he smiles.
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A sense of satisfaction in this. For he worships at the same altar. They pass a high, sweeping wall painted salmon pink and topped by spiked black railings. His limo draws in behind others it has been following. Umbrellas, black and shiny, cluster immediately around his door. He steps out on to red carpet, and water pools around his feet as the weight of his steps squeezes rain from the pile. Through open gates, the site unfolds before him, a forest of steel rods rising out of the concrete blocks already sunk there. On the far perimeter two tiers of workmen's huts rise from the mud.
Pale oriental faces gather in the rain to watch with dull curiosity as the party makes its perilous way across the quagmire, red carpet submerged now in liquid mud that sloshes over black shiny leather, spattering the bottoms of freshly pressed trousers. The American feels cold water seeping between his toes and curses inwardly. Lyrical, empathetic and moving.
May's novels are strong on place and the wounds left by old relationships. Will have the reader relishing every tendency of description and characterization.
Dark, exciting and atmospheric. Powerful and authentic.
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A gripping page-turner that combines edge-of-the-seat suspense with a fascinating picture of modern China. The plot is chilling and ingenious.
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