Midnight in Peking by Paul French

Midnight_in_Peking‘The evil that men do lives after them…’

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

This is a fascinating story of a true-life crime committed in the last days of old Peking as the threat of invasion, war and revolution spread fear amongst the Chinese and foreign inhabitants of the city.

Author Paul French has researched the murder of 19-year-old Pamela Werner thoroughly and tells the tale well. Was Pamela an innocent schoolgirl or an independent and rebellious young woman bent on sampling some of the excitements Peking could offer? Was she murdered by a maniac or by someone closer to home? French shows how the investigation developed, first through official channels of the Chinese police and the British Legation, then when that led to nothing, through a private investigation funded by Pamela’s father. And French’s solution, when it comes, is as convincing as it is horrifying.

Pamela Werner Schoolgirl?
Schoolgirl?
Or sophisticate?
Or sophisticate?

While the story of the murder is intriguing enough in itself, the added interest of the book comes from the light French sheds on the city of Peking at this time of fear and change. He is scathing about the diplomatic cover-ups and corruption that hampered the investigation as the British Legation tried to stamp out any word of scandal that might reflect on their community. He shows the contrast between life within the gated foreign quarter, with its dances and tea parties, and life outside in the Badlands, a place where vice of all kinds was available for a price, a place where some of the ultra-respectable foreigners led a very different life. French gives a clear account of the political picture of the time as the Japanese surrounded the city prior to invasion, as the ideas of fascism and communism were spreading throughout the world, as war seemed an ever more likely prospect.

Paul French
Paul French
A very well written book about a dark episode in a fascinating period – highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

11 thoughts on “Midnight in Peking by Paul French

  1. Oh, now you’ve got my interest! True crime – when it’s well-written – can be fascinating, and this one also brings in another thing I enjoy: stories that evoke different places and times. Thanks for the fine review.

    • You know, of course, that tagging this China, Peking, Beijing is a desperate attempt to attract someone who’ll colour in that elusive part of the map? Now I just have to think of a book about Greenland…

      • Shameless hussy!

        You could always review an environmental book called Green Land (there must be one) and run the title together into one word, or review a Graham Greene and pretend to be spelling challenged, calling it Greenland (note to safe, dig out elderly review of favourite Graham Greene and try trick myself)

      • Book about Greenland? Try “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Hoeg. His “The Woman and the Ape” is very good too, tho’ not about Greenland.

  2. Thank you for reviewing this. I heard part of a discussion about it on the radio but didn’t catch the author’s name. Now I can do something about it.

    • Hope you enjoy it! The same thing is happening to me at the moment – Meet the Authors on the BBC keeps discussing a mystery novel that sounds just like my kind of thing, but twice I’ve missed the name of the author and the book. (Note to self – must pay more attention!)

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