The scream female, high-pitched, terrified, breathless, a wordless, formless, plea for mercy arrived from silence and was cut off, abruptly strangled, leaving a gurgling echo in its airy wake . . . Robin Ballantyne is investigating the murder of a British man in Beijing. But in a city thick with paranoia and corruption, she struggles to separate rumour from reality. Meanwhile, late one freezing night, Chinese private detective Song rescues a young boy from a fire on a building site. With witnesses appearing from the murky surrounds, bloody clothes on the ground but no body, and flames blazing around him, Song panics and flees through the woods still clutching the boy. From the smog of the capital to the poverty-stricken countryside, and from the mansions of millionaires to a disused quarry where the children of scavengers root among the rubbish, Song and Robin must unravel the truth behind the murders before they find themselves silenced and before the killer can make another sinister move . . .