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The story unfolds during the summer and autumn of 1870. It begins on the China coast. The protagonist, Thaddeus Galt, a mission priest, discovers, in the hold of a junk stranded on a sandbar, the bodies of thirty Japanese children, drowned in a storm. The children originated in the port of Kobe. Galt goes to Kobe to find those responsible for this terrible crime, and the reader is drawn into the sinister world of child trafficking, opium and violence. This is the world of The Kobe Foreign Concession, a bustling town built by western merchants who are hungry for Profit. But there is no profit for them in Kobe because their business is being strangled by the Meiji bureaucrats and the Japanese Customhouse. To make their Profit, those merchants become pawns of K’ung, a powerful Chinese Boss. They buy homeless children who are kidnapped from the slums of Osaka and they send this human cargo to K’ung’s brothels in The Shanghai Foreign Concession. The merchants are also involved in the trade of opium within The Concession. The children go out of Kobe, into misery. Opium comes into Kobe, creating misery. This is a world where the wealthy and the corrupt make the rules. Galt enters it, in the hot summer of 1870, on a mission to find justice for the dead children and to fight the evil that controls it. His mission is urgent because already the merchants are bringing another shipment of children to Kobe. In a few days, they will be on their way to Shanghai.
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