Kensington|May 29, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7582-7353-6
Once upon a time in China, the most beautiful and gifted women were known as “skeleton women” – the ultimate femme fatales who could bring a man to his knees, or to his doom…When Camilla, a young orphan girl in Shanghai, is adopted and brought to live in luxury, it seems like a stroke of luck. But as Camilla grows to womanhood, she realizes that her “rescue” was part of gang leader Big Brother Wang’s scheme. Camilla is trained in singing, dancing, knife-throwing and contortion – all to attract the attention of Wang’s enemy, the ruthless Master Lung.
Forced to become Master Lung’s mistress, Camilla meets two other intriguing women. Shadow is a magician and rival for Master Lung’s affections, while Rainbow Chang dresses like a man and wields power through her incendiary gossip column. Both pose risks to Camilla’s safety and status. But an even greater danger comes in the form of Master Lung’s eldest son, Jinying, who despises his father’s violent lifestyle – but loves Camilla. Only by plotting to eliminate Lung can she make her escape, but at what cost?
Mingmei Yip author of Peach Blossom Pavilion and Song of the Silk Road has created a captivating story filled with intrigue and opulence, peopled with extraordinary characters impossible to forget.
I’ve always said that Mingmei Yip’s Song of the Silk Road was my favourite of her novels but I must say after reading Skeleton Women they’re running even at this point! What a phenomenal novel!!
Nineteen-year-old Camilla was adopted as a young orphan by a gang leader named Brother Wang who once Camilla reached her teenage years schooled her in contortionism, knife-throwing, singing, and dancing. She is a spy for Wang and has ingratiated herself into Master Lung’s world and become his main squeeze. With her beauty, amazing singing voice, and her tiny twenty-one inch waist, the old man can’t help but love her. Her mission is to kill him or be killed by Wang. He wants to take over Master Lung’s empire as the toughest gangster in Shanghai, but how is she going to do accomplish this?
Thrown into the mix in Master Lung’s own son, Jinying who was schooled at Harvard and has fallen madly in love with Camilla and wants to take her away from his father whom he despises and live somewhere together but Camilla is trapped into her mission and can’t reveal anything to him.
Camilla also meets two adversaries: one is Shadow, a magician who also wants to be Master Lung’s number one main squeeze and at times sets up Camilla to take a fall. Then there is Rainbow Chang, a woman who dresses like a man and is a newspaper journalist who uses her columns to duke it out between Camilla and Shadow stirring up the pot and causing trouble. It’s amazing how “words” can cause so many difficulties.
The only way Camilla is going to escape this horrible world of gangsters she tangled in is to plot to kill Master Lung but how is she going to do that and what will it cost her?
The characters are well-developed and the storyline is amazing and reads quite fast. So much is going on you won’t be able to put the book down and you’ll be turning the last page before you know it. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone. Great job Mingmei!!!
At the end of the book there are some fantastic book discussion questions that will really get you back into the story and picking it apart layer by layer by answering them. Just fabulous!!