15th February 1935. The Long March. Sichuan Province, China.
In the heat of the battle of Tucheng, a heavily pregnant woman delivers the baby of a high cadre. In desperate retreat from the enemy, the baby is reluctantly given away to a milk less old peasant woman, bribed with silver dollars and a small bag of opium.
Changmao, 150 kilometres east of central Shanghai.
Over half a century later…
In the depth of night a young comrade, almost still a child, is handed a flaming torch by a gnarled general. Words of a new revolution whispered into the young comrades ears after years of instruction and indoctrination. The first house to burn, the house of his own mother. Every other house to follow, along with their inhabitants…
Twelve hours later…
An entire village burnt to the ground, it’s population incinerated. The ruins of the village bulldozed over, as if it never existed. All signs bearing its name, removed. What used to be its location, removed from maps. And all overseen by State Security.
This is the situation that Senior Investigator Sun Piao of the Homicide Squad of the Public Security Bureau and his deputy, the Big Man, stumble upon. Invited only out of courtesy and misguided protocol to the scene of crime, but not allowed to investigate it; their role is only to be that of errand boys, asked to sign a report that they know to be a lie. A lie that will bury the mystery of the village that no longer exists, even deeper.
Refusing to sign the report places Piao and his Deputy Investigators positions and lives at risk. Their investigation unearthing, from the most meagre of evidence, facts that confuse, yet intrigue. Amongst the villagers who were incinerated, there were no male children, all removed from the village before fire consumed it… and now missing. And the body of an elderly peasant woman from the village, her remains now honoured with burial in a place of great privilege paid for by the Politburo.
The bodies of the male children taken from the village are found at the bottom of a river, all for except one. It is clear to Piao that the village was destroyed and the boys drowned to hide the history and path of just this one child, a boy known as Shi san ya-zi, ‘the boy of stone’, a nickname used by Mao Tse-Tung himself.
The investigation takes Senior Investigator Sun Piao and his deputy into the People’s Republic’s highest echelon’s of power and its lowest criminal strata’s, in a political intrigue that stretches back to the Long March, over fifty years distant. And a new breed of old politics and the fanatics propagating it, that is intent on changing the course of the People’s Republic’s route to democracy. Their leader, General Secretary Su-Tu of the Central Secretariat, a cadre fuelled by a cancerous obsession to plunge China back to its red revolutionary past with him as its glorious Chairman… but a cadre haunted by past acts of his own treachery and the fear that these will yet be discovered. And in the shadows that only Su-Tu has explored, the Madam Negotiator, his sponsor, an American Senator working to an American agenda to retain its place at the top of the world order.
So many questions remain. What role is held by the mysterious Frenchman, Severe, and why has he been given permission by the highest of cadre to break the most holy of monopolies that kilo by kilo outstrips the worth of cocaine… ‘black gold’, caviar ? The rare Chinese antiquities that he sells in the worlds greatest auction houses, antiquities thought destroyed during the Cultural Revolution… for what purpose are the profits being used ? And the great bear of the Russian who tracks Severe as the hunter tracks the wolf… what is the story that under-pins his hate ?
As fellow comrades violently fall around them and Piao is forcibly enslaved to Heroin in an act to discredit him and the evidence that he has gathered, truths are discovered.
The body of the elderly peasant woman buried in a place of great privilege paid for by the Party, who as a baby was abandoned during the Long March… the daughter of Mao Tse-Tung himself. Her own child, nicknamed after the Great Helmsman, the grandson of Mao. The boy, the one who is to become the puppet figurehead in a new cult of Mao that will pull the People’s Republic back to the days of the Red Guard.
In the ice lands that border Siberia, the Boy of Stone and the political fanatics that have indoctrinated him are tracked down. A race against time and great odds ensues… that will lead Piao and the Big Man face to face with assassins whose bullets will change the course of the People’s Republic forever.