And so COURT was followed a few years later by IRON EMPRESS (called DECEPTION then). Also populated with real
people who actually lived, including Magistrate Ti Ren-chieh, popularized in the 1950s by Robert van Gulik as the Sherlock Holmsian Judge Dee, it’s our fictionalized telling of the rise of the Empress Wu Tse-tien. The historical facts were thrilling
and provocative: not only were the Empress Wu and Magistrate Dee, as we call him, real people who actually lived, but they knew one another and he was absolutely crucial to the restoration of the T’ang after the Empress’ bloody outlaw reign. Almost
on its own, an intricate tale began to weave itself, with Magistrate Dee the sleuth faced with a series of baffling murders that lead him, eventually, to the Empress, her terrifying mother, and her lover, the Tibetan monk-magician Hsueh Huai-i.
IRON EMPRESS became a bestseller, in Germany and France especially, and so it was time for a third novel. We hungered to revisit the prison island, and SHORE OF PEARLS was born. It happens in a four-year interval in the action of IRON EMPRESS. Wu
has risen to near-ultimate power, has established her own rogue Buddhist state, and is on her way to the pinnacle, with only one last obstacle—her gender—to overcome. She belies any quaint notion of the fair sex as “gentler;” the dead,
broken and decapitated bodies in her wake—some of them her next of kin—would have done Nero proud. But it’s the still-living victims of the Empress who concern Magistrate Dee as he, barely in possession
of his own head after fleeing the capital city, journeys south to the port city of Canton, whence he hopes to get to the island. He fears for the lives and fates of a group of scholars exiled there, "cultural emissaries," survivors of a failed rebellion against