Monica Marshall is a nobody. The fact that she is radiantly beautiful, clever, funny, often brilliant is of no importance. As an Eurasian visiting Shanghai in the 1920s, none of her attributes matter; to whites she's invisible; Asians regard her with contempt. When she's accused of committing an especially gruesome murder, a Caucasian detective steps in as her champion, fighting to prove her innocence. Unfortunately, as the detective's attraction to Monica grows, so does his distrust of her, fueled by his own repressed racial prejudice. Shanghai in the twenties was a fabulous place, a gaudy, immoral, violent, unjust, optimistic free-for-all where rickshaws competed with Rolls-Royces and a wealthy Englishman, American or Japanese who spent an afternoon at the dog races might be inconvenienced by the sight of a public beheading on his way to the club for cocktails. It was also an improbable model for the future where racial barriers were rigid in certain neighborhoods and completely lacking in others only a few blocks away. There was almost no place in history where the past and the future collided with so much drama.