A Novel of Murder and Madness in T'ang China
Eleanor Cooney & Daniel Altieri
This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.
Book One of the T’ang Trilogy: The International bestseller IRON EMPRESS (formerly DECEPTION), translated into five languages, hailed critically in the US and Europe, returns. In China’s six thousand-year history, there were countless Empresses, but only one female Emperor. Her name was Wu Tse-tien, and she was the Iron Empress.
Collaborating with her lookalike mother, Madame Yang, she spares nothing and no one in her ascent from the rank of court concubine, starting with the murder of her infant daughter and then the sexual conquest of the T’ang Dynasty Emperor Kaotsung. Mediocre son of a great father, Kaotsung is always being compared, wantingly, to the late Emperor Taitsung. Before his death, the father had conferred authority on six elderly trusted advisors to represent Taitsung from beyond the grave. The wrinkled, aged Council of Six are not Taitsung’s only legacy—Kaotsung also inherits the smooth, fragrant and delectable Lady Wu, once a favored consort of his father’s. A lucky man! Or is he?
Meanwhile, in the distant port city of Yangchou, another historical denizen of the T'ang, Magistrate Ti Ren-chieh (known to millions via Robert Van Gulik's series the Judge Dee mysteries), is obsessed with a string of murders. Educated, rational, and compassionate, he’s been called the Chinese Sherlock Holmes, putting himself in the minds, hearts, shoes and clothing of criminals and their victims. He goes where he needs to go to solve a crime, be it a fine house, a monastery or the stinking alleys and foul waters of the canal district of Yangchou. Anywhere but home, where his two wives, old mother and delinquent sons make his teeth hurt and his life miserable. As he cracks these baffling cases, his investigations take him far from the light of rational Confucianism and deep into the shadows of charlatan Buddhism, where hucksters, poseurs and opportunists abound. Little does he imagine where his perseverance will deliver him.
Aided by her mother and eventually by her lover, Hsueh Huai-i, a rogue Tibetan monk-magician, the Empress Wu overcomes the final barrier to ultimate power: her sex. The challenge of Dee’s career arrives in the form of the bloody hoofprints of a horse on the shining floors of the mansions of slaughtered wealthy families in the capital city of Ch’angan. Clues in Buddhist sutras lead Dee into the world of demons, saints and prophecies, and ultimately to the palace, the Empress herself, and an extraordinary showdown with Hsueh Huai-i.
"IRON EMPRESS is much better by far than THE NAME OF THE ROSE: More gripping, more understandable, more readable....A work at once entertaining and fascinating....enlightening, illuminating, boiling with surprises and alive with totally novel imagery....”
—Le Figaro, Paris
"If P.D. James and Umberto Eco collaborated on a novel set in T'ang China, it might be like this."
"A skittish dance on the razor's edge of paranoia."
—San Francisco Examiner
"Wonderful...compelling...a hard-driven saga of good and evil without the car chases. Enough beheadings, poisonings and back-stabbings, both literal and figurative, to bloody a whole series of books..."
—San Francisco Chronicle
About the Authors:
Eleanor Cooney is the author of DEATH IN SLOW MOTION (HarperCollins 2004, Kindle edition 2013). She recently completed a dark-but-humorous literary “noir” thriller set in Wisconsin in the present and in the 1890s.
Daniel Altieri holds degrees in Oriental language and civilization from Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania. His short stories and full-length fiction reflect the American experience, including a newly-completed novel about growing up in the iconic 1950s.