John and Janice Deal seem to have put the horrors of Raw Deal behind them when Janice suddenly slips into a profound depression. As Deal battles to keep her balanced, he must contend with the apparent suicide of his best friend, Barbara Cooper, who was seemingly distraught over the death of her mother. Meanwhile, middling Hollywood agent Stuart Mahler has a bright idea - making porn movies for the burgeoning Chinese market. ('Imagine', he enthuses, 'a billion people all getting in touch with their sexuality at the same time!') His idea is too bright, perhaps, because it's attracted the attention of a ruthless Chinese triad that is muscling in on Mahler's venture. What ties all this together, and brings John Deal on the scene, is Paige Nobleman, a struggling Hollywood actress, who is Mahler's client and Barbara Cooper's sister. She hires Deal and his partner, ex-cop Vernon Driscoll, to find out whether her sister really killed herself. The answer to that question only leads to more disturbing questions. Questions that the triad will do anything to stop Deal from asking - 'anything' meaning Gabriel Tan, a splendidly chilling behemoth who blends Eastern philosophy and a hard-won knowledge of how to end a life with one hand. Standiford sets himself apart from the crowd by tackling malevolence in its timeliest incarnation and depicting decent, ordinary people wrestling with extraordinary evil.
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