After helping Prince Kung avert an international disaster and negotiating with Inspector Gong's mother for his betrothal to Concubine Swan, Lady Li takes a well-deserved evening to enjoy the first public performance by a female Peking opera performer. But her relaxing night out takes a dramatic turn when a murder is committed on stage during the performance.
Inspector Gong's attempt at finding a distraction from the troubles in his heart is thwarted when he and Lady Li attend the same opera performance. Thankfully, a murder in front of hundreds of people plunges him into a world usually hidden behind curtains and costumes.
The empress has decreed that women can now play female roles in Peking's beloved operas. But few women have been willing to undertake the challenge and risk the wrath of the more conservative opera patrons. When the first woman willing to step into the role of the "dan" becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her co-star, Lady Li begs Inspector Gong to delay in arresting the actress and find the real killer before the woman is executed for the crime. With the future of Chinese theater hanging in the balance, Inspector Gong must try to find the truth among people who mask their real faces for a living.
Will Lady Li and Inspector Gong discover the killer? Or will the empress's first attempt at social change lose its head before it finds its footing?
Take a peek behind the curtain at the fascinating world of Chinese opera in Murder at the Peking Opera, book 3 in the Qing Dynasty Mystery Series.