On the eve of World War II, Shanghai was the most cosmopolitan city in Asia. People lived by their wits as con artists, swindlers, and charlatans, and continued to ply their skills when the city was engulfed by war. Wasserstein has brilliantly captured both the ambiance of the time and the personalities of its many shady actors. Everyone schemed against everyone else; the Allies alone had 15 intelligence agencies operating in the city. The Germans and Japanese, given their ideological concerns about racial superiority, did not fully trust each other. The Russians were divided between Communists and White Russians, the Chinese among Nationalists, Communists, and Japanese puppets. The 20,000 Shanghai Jews had 17 journals that reflected their divisions. Meanwhile, the rickety authority of the International Settlement, the Western-run protectorate, held off Japanese domination but could not effectively police the society. Although the Shanghai presses were busy with their respective causes, ideology often played only a marginal role. People with shady backgrounds sold out their countries. Indeed, Shanghai's self-contained social world kept the intelligence agencies so busy that it did not seem to matter that their activities had almost no effect on the war itself.