A boat from Hong Kong arrives in Shanghai harbor, carrying an important official in the Nationalist Party and his striking wife, Leng. Amid the raucous sound of firecrackers, gunshots ring out: an assassin has shot the official and then himself. Leng disappears in the ensuing chaos. Hsueh, a Franco-Chinese photographer aboard the same boat, has become captivated by Leng's beauty and unconcealed misery. Now she is missing. But Hsueh is plagued by a mystery closer to home: he suspects his White Russian lover, Therese, is unfaithful. Why else would she have disappeared so often on their recent vacation When he's arrested for mysterious reasons in the French Concession and forced to become a police collaborator, he realizes that in the seamy, devious world of Shanghai, no one is who they appear to be. His aptitude for espionage draws Hsueh into a dark underworld of mobsters, smugglers, anarchists, and assassins. Torn between Therese and Leng, he vows to protect them both. As the web of intrigue tightens around him, Hsueh must play a dangerous game, hoping to stay alive.