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Two boys discover a forty-year-old skeleton, and an old man trudges through a San Francisco park to the Fior d'Italia Restaurant. Thus begins a story filled with love, political intrigue, and murder.

The Separatist is two parallel stories: one about Julia Rice, a newspaper reporter, and the other about Mr. Andersen, an eighty-year-old man who roars into her life like an aging lion. Mr. Andersen was once a separatist, a man hired by clients to sever relationships, but he had to flee the country to escape a Chinese warlord, Liu Kwong. Now, he has returned, and he offers to tell his story to Julia so he can bring Kwong to justice and closure to his life. When she hesitates, he promises in return to help her find her father who abandoned her as a small child. Julia accepts his proposal and enters a sinister world where danger and romance await her.

Julia learns that Mr. Andersen was hired forty years ago by Kwong to sever relationships with a woman, Kathy Griffith, who he claimed was his mistress. However, Andersen discovers Kwong's real motivation is to prevent Kathy from exposing his illegal smuggling operations, and if Andersen is not successful, he will "get rid of her" some other way. Mr. Andersen does not like the idea of working for Kwong, but a woman's life is in danger and he cannot refuse. As Andersen investigates Kathy, he falls in love with her and faces an agonizing dilemma. To save her life, he must compromise Kathy's reputation so that Kwong can blackmail her, but if he fulfills his contract, he will destroy her trust in him and lose her anyway.

Like Andersen, Julia is trapped by her own past. She knows her father roams the country promoting fraudulent real estate schemes, but despite his unsavory character, she hopes to find him someday. But as Julia navigates the twists and turns of the separatist's perilous world, she makes startling discoveries that shake her confidence and nearly cost her her life. She has no choice, however, but to continue down the path laid out for her by Mr. Andersen, for she knows it is the only way to bring closure to her own past and hope for the future.