When a abrasive American woman whose controversial views on population contol have made her a notorious figure in contemporary China is found knifed to death in her Beijing hotel room, another visiting American woman becomes involved in the murder investigation. Dr. Janet Eldine, who has recently returned to China to set up an English department in a provincial university, is asked to assist the Chinese police in tracking down Mary Allen's killer.
The suspect list is as long as the many enemies the intrusive Mrs Allen had made. Two of these are friends of Janet's. Did the brilliant Chinese-American gneticist Dr Ian Chen end his enigmatic professional - and personal- relationship with Mary by murdering her? Or did Carol, a flamboyantly beautiful and disturbingly eratic English instructor, view Mary as a rival for the charming Dr Chen's affections and commit a crime to have a clear field with her new lover?
Janet must also consider the curious motivations of Mary's absentee husband as well as a jealous female assistant of Ian's and a North African man with a frightenign ferocity toward interfering foreigners.
Then the killer strikes again and Janet knows that speculation must give way to direct action before another murder takes place.