Secret betrayals and sinister intrigues abound in the court of the T'ang-but none as deadly as those hatched by the Chinease emperor's favored consort,
Wu Tse-tien. In this breathtaking realm of perilous splendor, the beautiful, ruthless concubine conspires to win a throne through betrayal, seduction, perversion...and the heinous slaughter of innocents. But as a plague of terror and death sweeps across the land, one man vows to find the cure-a brilliant Confucian investigator and dedicated magistrate who must risk his life to expose the Dark aLady's evil machinations...for the sake of horor and the fading flory of a fragile, imperiled Empire.
This book's main characters, Magistrate Dee and Empress Wu Tse-tien, are historical figures who lived at a calamitous and well-recorded moment in seventh-century Chinese history. Dee is a detective whose investigation into the murder of the transport minister shows his intelligence, integrity, and faithfulness to traditional, rational Confucian principles. At the same time, Madame Wu, chief consort of Emperor Kao-tsung, schemes to depose his empress and wield absolute power as ruler of China. Eventually, Dee and Empress Wu are brought together. He discovers the truth of the numerous murders she has committed as she seeks to usurp the ancient T'ang dynasty and replace it with her own Chou dynasty, founded on a corrupt form of Buddhism that relies on magic, superstition, and deceit.