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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 . . .

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