The year is 1937. Japan has already annexed the Chinese province of Manchuria and installed Henry Pu-Yi, the last Emperor of China, as the ruler of the new colony, renamed 'Manchuko'. Hong Kong is a vortex of intrigue as its British rulers carry on with 'the good life'.
Nineteen year old Leah Kolbe lines her eyes with kohl, covers her arms with bangles, dons a red silk dress slit up the sides and sets forth for the steamy streets of Hong Kong, the gambling dens of Macau, and beyond.
Her father, a shady antiques dealer, the notorious Fat Man of Hong Kong, has died suddenly and mysteriously. Her inheritance is a massive house on Victoria peak, filled with the exquisite collection of antiques he had amassed as his stock in trade, the education in connoisseurship he has given her, and the maxims he has taught her, chief of which is 'Everybody cheats. Be sure you cheat first.'
The only person she trusts is An-li, her elderly Chinese amah. When Mr. Chang, Kuomintang agent who says he knew her father, makes her a business proposition, at first Leah declines. But to keep her house and the business, Leah desperately needs ready money. Chang's proposal launches Leah into danger as she heads north by train up the coast of China to Manchuko. To survive, she must use all her father's cunning plus her own assets: determination, courage, and beauty.