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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China [Kindle Edition]

Paul French
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.01 (31%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Winner of the both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger

Peking in 1937 is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, opulence and opium dens, rumors and superstition. The Japanese are encircling the city, and the discovery of Pamela Werner's body sends a shiver through already nervous Peking. Is it the work of a madman? One of the ruthless Japanese soldiers now surrounding the city? Or perhaps the dreaded fox spirits? With the suspect list growing and clues sparse, two detectives—one British and one Chinese—race against the clock to solve the crime before the Japanese invade and Peking as they know it is gone forever. Can they find the killer in time, before the Japanese invade?

Historian and China expert Paul French at last uncovers the truth behind this notorious murder, and offers a rare glimpse of the last days of colonial Peking.

Editorial Reviews


An instant true crime classic. Grips from the first page to the last -- David Peace, Author Of Red Riding And The Damned United Fascinating and irresistible. I couldn't put it down -- John Berendt, Author Of Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil Written in the style of a gripping murder mystery, but all the facts are true -- Kirsty Lang BBC Radio 4 (Book of the Week) Engrossing true crime whodunnit... A terrific read -- Andrew Holgate Sunday Times Not only does Mr French succeed in solving the crime, he resurrects a period that was filled with glitter as well as evil The Economist French has an easygoing prose style... well chosen quotes bring a new vigour and crispness... [He] succeeds in giving voice to a tragic quest for justice Sunday Telegraph It is the storytelling flair that marks Midnight in Peking so highly above the run-of-the-mill true crime stories: with its false leads and twists, it sucks the reader in like the best fiction The Scotsman The shocking true tale, combined with prose you can't drag yourself away from, makes Midnight in Peking a work of non fiction as compulsive as any bestselling crime novel. It also brings justice at last for a young woman whose murder nearly went unsolved Sunday Express Terrific, engrossing ... a gruesome tale of a hitherto forgotten case, and of the sheer tenacity of a grieving father -- Caroline Sanderson The Bookseller

About the Author

Born in London, Paul French has lived in China for more than 10 years. He is a widely published analyst and commentator on China; his books include a history of North Korea, a biography of Shanghai adman and adventurer Carl Crow, and a history of foreign correspondents in China.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2924 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0072NWJRK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,810 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
122 of 131 people found the following review helpful
Pamela Werner was a high-spirited, independent young woman living with her father in Peking, China during the late 1930s.
On a cold January night in 1937, Pamela was found brutally murdered at the foot of one of Peking's well-known landmarks - the Fox Tower.

Pre-world war II Peking was a stressful place to live. China was in the midst of a civil war and the Japanese had invaded and were waiting for the opportunity to capture the city.

Nerves were frayed. A cloud of doom hung over the streets. Even the well-protected foreign nationals were feeling the shifting of events. But the brutal murder of Pamela Werner kicked the anxieties of the city up several notches. Both the Chinese and foreign nationals fearfully wondered who could have butchered this innocent young girl.

Paul French's Midnight In Peking is a masterfully woven non-fiction murder mystery peopled with smug British diplomats, harried Scotland Yard detectives, Chinese police officers with mysterious agendas, an American dentist with degraded, lustful designs, and a beautiful young woman who isn't all that she seems.

French has done his research, and his findings from the papers of Pamela's father are most intriguing. Even after the British dropped the case, Werner doggedly pursued his daughter's murderer asking help from the Chinese and even the occupying Japanese. His determination to find his daughter's killer is inspiring.
Midnight In Peking reads like a true-to-life Agatha Christie with a lot more carnality. Peking, like most places, had a dark side that could lure a naïve young woman to her death, and French takes us there.

This is no stuffy history text.
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A murder that slipped from history April 25, 2012
The mutilated corpse of a foreigner found at the base of Fox Tower on January 8, 1937 posed a special problem for Peking police. The victim was a free-spirited young woman named Pamela Werner. When Pamela wasn't attending school in Tientsin, she lived in Peking with her adoptive father, Edward Werner, a scholar and former British consul. She had been beaten to death and then dumped at Fox Tower. Multiple wounds were inflicted post-mortem in an apparent attempt to dismember the body. Sections of her skin and some of her organs had been removed.

The task of investigating the crime fell to Han Shih-ching, with the assistance of Detective Chief Inspector Richard Dennis, who headed the police in the British Concession in Tientsin. Dennis delved into Edward Werner's troubled past, learning of the problems he caused in his various diplomatic postings before he got sacked, a history suggestive of mental instability. Gossip -- the favorite sport of the expat community -- suggested that death and tragedy were Werner's constant companions, including the suspicious death of his wife.

A little more than a third of the narrative has passed by before a promising suspect emerges, but if solving the crime were that easy there would be no story to tell -- at least not a story filled with drama and intrigue. Fortunately for the reader (less so for Han and Dennis), the British government increased its efforts to impede Dennis' investigation, suggesting that a cover-up, if not a full-blown conspiracy, was afoot. Brits Behaving Badly becomes a subtext, as does the concept of "saving face," a characteristic often associated with Asians but quite applicable to the British living and working in China.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think some of my favorite kinds of stories are about unsolved mysteries - books that return to murders, lost treasure, and the like years or decades after all the witnesses of the time have been laid to rest, and bring a new eye to the scene. French takes an unsolved murder in Peking in 1937 and paints in a city on the edge of a new and unknown era - the looming Japanese threat of invasion, hard-partying high life, the foreign bureaucrats lost in internal feuds and their desire to not sully the reputation of their little community, and finally a man and his savagely murdered daughter. It would be easy to get lost in any one of those threads but the author managed to balance them all as the story moves through the unravelling of the Chinese rule in Peking and the public and private investigations of the crime.

Pamela Werner was just nineteen when her body was found at the Fox Tower, a locale believed to be haunted by the Chinese. The uneasy partnership of the Chinese police who had jurisdiction over the site, and the British concession detective appointed by the Legation opens the story. Quickly it comes to light that the Werner household isn't the usual; Pamela's father is a former Consul living in a hutong outside the Legation grounds, a solitary scholar away on his explorations for months at a time. And Pamela has her own secrets as a young woman looking to shape her own life as she comes of age...

Thoroughly researched but never academic, always lively, a good read if you enjoy mysteries, Chinese history or just an engaging tale and excellent sleuthwork by the author.

Maps, photos, an audio walk of the relevant sights, and other extras are available on the Midnight in Peking website.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A wound that never heals.
An unsolved murder case is a wound that never heals. The horrific killing of 19 year old Pamela Werner in Peking in January 1937 shocked the population in Peking, as well as many... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Norman Conquest
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Too intricate and no ending.
Published 17 days ago by Joeairport
4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting book.
This book haunted me for several days. Although a little slow in parts, it is compelling with a clearly drawn picture of Peking at the time. Read more
Published 18 days ago by GS
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
fantastic read!
Published 25 days ago by greta bradford
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing insights into an unknown period of time
Published 1 month ago by Philip Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing nonfiction story
An amazing nonfiction story. The author is a deep investigator and provides much detail, with insights into the time and the region, in addition to the grisly, unsolved murder.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good detective story
A very good detective story, specially when you know it's true. Excellent description of China before the war. IRMA DICKINSON
Published 1 month ago by irma dickinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Historical well written novel!
Published 1 month ago by Donna Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
fascinating true story about a murder that went unsolved for many years.
Published 3 months ago by Christine
3.0 out of 5 stars sounded better in reviews than the reading turned out
Okay but not fascinating. Too much repetition of the same details sltho I admit he didn't have a lot of info to work with. Read more
Published 3 months ago by C. Bender
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More About the Author

Paul French lives in Shanghai, where he is a business advisor and analyst. He frequently comments on China for the English-speaking press around the world. French studied history, economics, and Mandarin at university and has an M.Phil. in economics from the University of Glasgow.


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