An early morning earthquake, two competitive tong bosses, an aunt and uncle murdered and a kidnapping. San Francisco is awash in Chinatown crime.
Peter Dawes is at loose ends with a new office and no clients. Captain Breen, the corrupt police chief, provides Dawes with a commission to find out what he can about the problems with the tongs in Chinatown. Breen tells Dawes that any intelligence he can ferret out about Oyster Mike Hagerty would only add to his compensation.
Ai Shun, the girl kidnapped from her fiance and the marriage she anticipated is sent to New York City where she entrances the painter Albert Pinkham Ryder.
Will all these disparate elements affect Peter Dawes? We'll have to read on to find out.
Murder most foul as the Bard of Avon would say of the death of a thousand cuts discovered in San Francisco's Chinatown.
The murder did not alleviate the depressed spirit of Ai Shun's fiance. He sent an all points bulletin to Chinatowns near and far to try to recover her. The bulletin was to have unexpected results.
Albert Pinkham Ryder's painting of Ai Shun was stolen by Albert's unwanted servant Junjie.
Albert's brother William retains a Pinkerton operative to find Junjie. The Pinkerton deduces that Junjie has fled New York City and the operative follows the chinaman west.
Meanwhile, Dawes returns to Susanville to mediate a dispute between Hake Madden and Steele the gun drummer regarding a pair of pistols.
Outside of Susanville, the Tulelakers have it in for Dawes for killing their kin during the shootout at Soot Kilgore's place.
What will be the outcome of all these story elements? Again we'll have to read on to find out.
Peter Dawes returns to Susanville on what he thinks will be a straightforward mediation between Hake Madden and Steele, the gun drummer. What Dawes experiences in a life or death situation is far removed from his original task.
Meanwhile, Dennis Kearney hatches a plot against the house servants of both Dawes and Maudie Simpson to show the rest of the city what could happen to their Chinese servants.
The election for mayor shows how the movers and shakers feel about the proposed constitution barring Chinese immigrants.
Albert Ryder finds that Bingwhen Choi has the painting of Ai Shun. Contemporaneously his brother Albert finds Ai Shun.
The story is headed for a conclusion that might well fit the description of a mystery shielded by an enigma all wrapped in a conundrum.
Albert Ryder shows he's more than just a painter with his successful location and rescue of Ai Shun.
Meanwhile, Changpu Chang has a nefarious plan for Peter Dawes at the same time that Bingwen Choi calls upon Oyster Mike Hagerty to ensure protection for Dawes.
William Ryder accompanies Ai Shun to San Francisco after having saved her from Junjie in Council Bluffs. They are on their way to conclude the bargain with Choi and retrieve Albert's painting.
In a dense fog Dawes is attacked and wounded by knife wielding assailants. He is saved by men who tell him he can thank Oyster Mike.
Ai Shun is returned to Choi and the painting is returned to William Ryder.
Dawes tells Maudie Simpson that his client list has dropped to zero once again. She says she may have something for him.
Before she can retain his services one of Dawes' past clients gives Dawes a commission that will require him to go to Bodie, which coincidentally is the title of the next Peter Dawes investigation.