Li Du has been recently exiled from China by the Emporer for being associated with traitors. As he walks across China to leave the country he stops in Dayan near the Tibetan border where his cousin Tulishen is the magistrate. Since the Emporer is expected to arrive in 6 days Tulishen has been planning to hold a festival for him where the Emporer is expected to show his subjects that he has control over the skies by predicting and producing an eclipse of the sun while he is there. While Li Du is there a Jesuit priest, astronomer Pieter van Dalen, suddenly dies. The magistrate declares the death to be natural but there are signs that he has ignored indicating there was foul play. Tulishen does not want a murder investigation occurring near the time of the Emporer's arrival as it would upset the Emporer. Li Du goes on his way but returns the next day asking his cousin if he can look into the priest's death. Tulishen gives him 5 days to come up with an answer before he has to leave again.
I loved this story. There were interesting characters from Li Du and Tulishen to East India Company representative Nicholas Gray, Tulishen's consort Lady Chen, another Jesuit priest Brother Martin and assorted employees of the magistrate. The historical aspect was well researched. The author certainly knows her stuff. Astronomy is prominent to the story and it added another interesting aspect to the plot.
This was an amazing read. Highly recommended!