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the fourth sacrifice

The Firemaker introduced a memorable detective team: Li Yan, a senior detective with the Beijing Municipal Police, and Margaret Campbell, a forensic pathologist from Chicago.

Now their paths cross again, as Margaret's unique skills are required once more to investigate a series of ritual executions in Beijing.

The first three victims were drugged, tied, labelled with a single word and a single number - then expertly beheaded. The fourth victim was dispatched in just the same way, but unlike the others he was an American diplomat. No one knows why Yuan Tao treturned to Beijing after a lifetime in America, why he took a lowly job at the American embassy, why he rented a simple flat in a poor neighbourhood - or why he died the same bizarre way as three very different Chinese men.

Compelled to work with one another, Margaret Campbell and Li Yan again feel the overwhelming attraction that nearly destroyed them both when they first met. But now Margaret has another admirer - a brilliant, charismatic American TV archaeologist. And Li has a family tragedy that demands all his heart.

Reluctantly, slowly, they tease out the killer's secrets. But the closer they come to the truth behind the executions, the more dangerously close they come to a killer who is prepared to sacrifice anyone to conceal it.

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© Peter May 2004