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A lone man, Peanut, escapes a labor camp in the dead of night, fleeing across the winter desert of north-west China. Two decades earlier, he was a spy for the British; now Peanut must disappear on Beijing's surveillance-blanketed streets. Desperate and ruthless, he reaches out to his one-time MI6 paymasters via crusading journalist Philip Mangan, offering military secrets in return for extraction. But the secrets prove more valuable than Peanut or Mangan could ever have known... and not only to the British.