When the body of an American archaeologist is found floating in the Yangzi River, Ministry of Public Security agent Liu Hulan and her husband, American attorney David Stark, are dispatched to Site 518 to investigate. As Hulan scrutinizes this death—or is it a murder?—David, on behalf of the National Relics Bureau, tries to discover who has stolen from the site an artifact that may prove to the world China’s claim that it is the oldest uninterrupted civilization on earth. This artifact is not only an object of great monetary value but one that is emblematic of the very soul of China. Everyone—from the Chinese government, to a religious cult, to an unscrupulous American art collector—wants this relic, and some, it seems, may be willing to kill to get it. At stake in this investigation is control of China’s history and national pride, and even stability between China and the United States.
The troubled Hulan must overcome her own fears of failure, while David tries desperately to break through the shell that has built up around his wife. As Hulan and David are enmeshed in international schemes for power and the turbulence of their own relationship, these hunters after the truth become the hunted—in a fast-driving narrative set against the backdrop of the building of the Three Gorges Dam, the largest and most expensive project China has undertaken since the Great Wall and the subject of great international debate. It is here, in the heart of the Three Gorges, that David and Hulan will battle their enemies and their own natures to see who will win China’s dragon bones.
Dragon Bones combines ancient myth with contemporary anxieties concerning religious fanaticism and terrorism to tell a story of love, betrayal, history, ecology, greed—and gory murder.
The controversial construction of a massive dam on the Yangzi River is the backdrop for the latest adventures of Liu Hulan, inspector in the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing, and her husband, American lawyer David Stark, familiar to readers of Flower Net and The Interior. Many years in construction, the Three Gorges Dam will benefit millions of people, but it will also bury untold archeological wealth. At the start of this complex, atmospheric thriller, Hulan is emotionally estranged from David after their young daughter's death from meningitis, for which she blames herself. Officially, she is scrutinizing a reactionary cult, the All-Patriotic Society, when she is sent to investigate the murder by drowning of a young American archeologist, a man who may have stolen ancient artifacts from the dam site. David accompanies her and they begin to repair their relationship, but the body count mounts and the sinister All-Patriotic Society leader, Xiao Da, rallies his followers against the dam. The tension reaches the breaking point at an auction in Hong Kong at which the most precious artifacts are offered for sale; soon after, Hulan and David are fighting for their lives in dark, slimy-walled caves alongside the Yangzi. The melodramatic conclusion has none of the elegance of the prologue, which casually but exquisitely notes the progress of the archeologist's decaying body along the river, through narrows and bays beyond the magnificent gorges. But See succeeds in widening the reader's knowledge about the politics and culture of contemporary China while racing along with an absorbing story.