Character – SmSun Mico

Sun (surname) Mico (first name) is an expert sword fighter,  a martial arts stuntwoman. She lives in Hong Kong with her beer baron father who disapproves of her life choices. Sun Chang persuades his daughter to help with the launch and promotion of a new brand of beer for women.

Mico agrees,  but perhaps she has a different agenda.

Extract from The Chemical Detective

A plane banked as it flew over Hong Kong and turned west to the airport at Chek Lap Kok. On the rooftop of a penthouse above Kowloon Bay, a slight woman in flowing robes flung a curved sword high into the air. The steel blade caught the setting sun, sending out flashes of rose and amber as it spun. Mico arched her back and executed a backward somersault, landing on her feet just in time to catch the plummeting weapon in the leather sheath slung across her back.

She removed the blindfold and shook her ponytail free. The remnants of the silken hairband, sliced open by the blade, fluttered to the floor.

‘Bravo!’ Stretched out on his lounger beside the pool, Sun Chang applauded, his eyes crinkling with affection for his daughter. ‘But don’t you get bored? Training all day?’

She skipped over to him, bare feet squeaking on the polished wood floor. ‘Don’t you get bored, drinking beer all day?’

He raised his cheek for her kiss, belching as she bent towards him. Wrinkling her nose in disgust, she brushed his forehead with her lips before turning away and settling herself on another lounger.

‘This is work. A new brand.’ He pushed the frosted glass towards her. ‘Here, try it.’

She patted her lean stomach. ‘Too many calories.’

‘Aha, thought you might say that. This is a special light beer, our new brand for women.’

She picked up the bottle from the table between them and inspected the label.

‘Why the rabbit?’

‘Hop!’ He chuckled to himself. ‘Don’t you see? Beer is made with hops, rabbits hop, girls love cuddly rabbits.’

‘Little girls don’t drink beer. Your target is adult women.’ Careful. Her sexual politics, and preferences, were a taboo subject. ‘Your idea? The rabbits?’

‘Yes. D’you like it?’

She didn’t say what she really thought.

Jade figurine


Samarium metal – Atomic number 62, atomic mass 150.36


Samarskite, the mineral from which samarium was first isolated, is named after Colonel Vassili Samarsky-Bykhovets, a Russian 19th Century mine official, who granted foreign scientists access to mineral samples from the Russian Urals.

Samarium-cobalt magnets, first developed in the 1960’s, are much more powerful than iron magnets and retain their properties at high temperatures. They were first used in military microwave communications and later enabled the miniaturisation of electronic devices like headphones, and the development of personal stereos.

Most Cobalt comes from Africa and allowed dictators like Mobuto Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) to become fabulously wealthy. A resource war broke out in 1978 in the Katanga region, choking off Cobalt supply and prices soared. Neodymium magnets are now more commonly used instead.

Samarium is also used in optical lasers, as a neutron absorber in nuclear reactors, as a catalyst, in specialised in glass and ceramics as well as in carbon arc lighting for studio lighting and projection.

Back to Promethium

Forward to Europium

The Chemical Reaction by Fiona Erskine is published by the PointBlank imprint of Oneworld and is available here