A fast-paced, engaging novel of suspense and intrigue where secret desires, ambitions, and a long-forgotten mystery come together on a historical journey through Europe and Asia.
When Lucas Vascones attends the funeral of his old martial arts master, Alfred Tang, he receives an unusual request from Tang’s widow: to write Tang’s biography. As he pores through old boxes of papers, photos and manuscripts, Lucas discovers a journal filled with notes, a picture of the sixteenth century Jesuit missionary Mateo Ricci and a beautiful colored drawing of an ancient library. As he works to decipher the hidden messages in his master’s journal, Lucas embarks on a journey through Asia and Europe, where he will uncover the truth about Tang’s life and unravel a mystery that has been buried for centuries.
“ Mrs. Tang passed me a few sticks of incense. Master Tang’s body had been laid out in a dark coffin, some three meters away from where we were standing. Two cushions had been placed on the ground for people to kneel on. Someone lit the incense in my hand, I knelt and began to bow my head in a gesture of respect. My two hands held tight to the incense sticks, which I raised up to my forehead. I tried to hold my breath, but suddenly, from somewhere deep inside my throat, the violent sound of a hiccup escaped my mouth. Again I tried not to breathe, and tried counting up to 15, but it was useless: by the time I hit 10, another hiccup disrupted my counting. In spite of this I tried to maintain a dignified stance, leaning forward three times as I had been told was part of this traditional ritual. Close to the coffin I placed the still-burning incense sticks in a large iron incense burner with sand at the bottom, so that they might continue smoldering. They joined hundreds of other, already burnt-out incense sticks. A pungent smell hung in the air.
I got up, and as I walked back over to the coffin, I let out another hiccup, this time silently, and I saw my master’s face. I had never told him why I had decided to give up traditional Tai chi chuan and Kung fu. One day I simply stopped calling him, stopped going around to his house. I knew he had asked some of the other students about what had happened to me, but the truth is I just never worked up the nerve to tell him that I no longer believed in what he was teaching me”.