Murder in Shanghai in the '90s presents Inspector Chen with a difficult choice. The victim, Guan Hongying, was a National Model Worker, a celebrity of utmost probity. But perhaps her personal life was not so pristine. Inspector Chen Cao, a published poet and translator of T. S. Eliot, who has been assigned to head the Shanghai Police Bureau's Special Case Squad, is urged by his superiors to consider the political implications of his investigation. Commissar Zhang, an old bureaucrat, doesn't want Chen to peer under any stones. Does Chen dare to persevere? Contemporary China is a society in turmoil. Faithful old party members, forced to retire, have lost prestige and perquisites; the new capitalists are on the rise. Still ensconced on top of the ladder are the High Cadres and, even above them, the HCC-High Cadre Children-their privileged status analogous to that of medieval princes. Chen is romantically interested in a newspaperwoman whose background would damage his prospects. He relinquished his former Beijing girlfriend as soon as he learned that she was the daughter of a Politburo member, thus far above his reach. Now, if Guan's murderer is to be punished, Chen must invoke her influence by rekindling the old flame. Or else a murderer may go unpunished.