All the requisite romantic entanglements, political intrigues, and culture clashes ensue when East meets West in this superbly executed thriller set against the bloody backdrop of the Boxer Rebellion in late-nineteenth-century China. Featuring a huge cast of intricately interwoven international characters, the fast-paced narrative fairly leaps off the pages as the action takes on a breakneck speed. Caught in the throes of the understandably brutal peasant rebellion are the cosmopolitan residents of the fictional city of Shishan, including a fanatical American missionary, a compassionate Scottish doctor, the beautiful daughter of a British businessman ensnared in an unfortunate love triangle, a smooth but ethically questionable British nobleman, and a suitably inscrutable Chinese mandarin. Poised directly above the execution grounds stands the Palace of Heavenly Pleasure, a notorious brothel that plays a pivotal role in the lives of both the local and expatriate residents of Shishan. Epic in scope and execution, this ambitious first novel opens a window between two worlds poised on the brink of extinction.