CHONGQING, China - In a plot worthy of a spy novel, the downfall of high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai began when a British businessman was found dead in a hilltop hotel room.
The scandal that subsequently unfolded in Chongqing, a steamy riverside megacity, saw Bo's police chief flee to a US consulate and his wife convicted of murder, and finally brought Bo's own political aspirations to an ignoble end.
Chongqing, in China's southwest, has thick clumps of skyscrapers and an urban population of more than 16 million, swollen each day by opportunity-seekers arriving from the countryside.
Projects spearheaded by Bo, who became the city's leader and one of China's top 25 politicians in 2007, are everywhere, from rows of low-cost apartments to new bridges and a massive light-rail system - all part of his attempt to gain political momentum to catapult him even higher within the power structure of the Chinese Communist Party.
Winding roads lead to the Lijing Holiday Hotel atop a forested hill. There, in one of a series of villas with sweeping views of Chongqing's high-rise city centre, Bo's wife Gu Kailai is said to have poisoned Briton Neil Heywood.
A steady stream of wealthy visitors dine on steak and yellow croaker fish in the hotel's rustic restaurant - but staff denied the existence of the room where court documents say the murder occurred.
"There is no room 1605," a hotel receptionist who declined to be named told AFP. "I do not know what you are talking about."
Bo, the son of one of China's most revered revolutionary generals, met Heywood when he was mayor of the eastern port city of Dalian in the late 1990s.
Prosecutors told a court during his trial that businessmen had paid for foreign trips and transferred millions to his family in return for government support during the period.
An English teacher turned business consultant who was fond of linen suits, Heywood cultivated an aristocratic air reflecting his former attendance at the elite British boarding school Harrow.