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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China Paperback – April 30, 2013
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“This is a good murder story, well told, with all the additional pleasures that a knowledgeable tour guide to old China can provide. Grateful readers could scarcely ask for more.” – Joseph Kanon, author of Istanbul Passage, in The Washington Post
“Never less than fascinating… one of the best portraits of between-the-wars China that has yet been written.” – The Wall Street Journal
“Midnight in Peking is both a detective story and a social history, and therefore – as it should – always keeps the hunt for Pamela’s killers somewhere near the center of the narrative. [Paul French] is a wonderfully dexterous guide” – Jonathan Spence in The New York Review of Books
“A crime story set among sweeping events is reminiscent of Graham Greene, particularly The Third Man, while French's terse, tightly-focussed style has rightly been compared to Chandler. Midnight in Peking deserves a place alongside both these masters.” – The Independent
“A page-turning and fascinating true crime book. This is a genre-breaker that captures the atmosphere of 1930s Peking.” – The Bookseller [selected as One to Watch]
“…the most talked-about read in town this year.” – The New Yorker’s Page-Turner Blog
“Midnight in Peking is true-crime writing at its best, full of vivid characters, an exotic locale, secrets galore, and a truly bewildering mystery.” – The Christian Science Monitor
“…A compulsively readable true crime work in the tradition of Devil in the White City.” – The Atlantic.com
“Not only does Mr. French succeed in solving the crime, he resurrects a period that was filled with glitter as well as evil, but was never, as readers will appreciate, known for being dull.” – The Economist
“An engrossing read” – Oprah.com
“In today’s Beijing, French’s portrait feels surprisingly germane.” – The Los Angeles Times
“Part historical docudrama, part tragic opera… [French] tells this sorry tale with the skill of an Agatha Christie.” – The Financial Times
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.
Top customer reviews
Mr. French introduces us to the China of the period, but also offers insight into investigative techniques of the time, the way foreigners in Peking fit into the city (in their own quarters and without), the nature of diplomatic face saving, and a tantalizing glimpse in the Badlands - that sinful place of crime and debauchery. He details the official investigation (where the crime went cold) and the unofficial investigation run by the victim's father (where the crime was solved). Along the way were diplomats, Chinese students, European wastrels, prostitutes, pimps, petty thieves, rooming house denizens, and everything in-between.
Midnight in Peking is a glimpse under the covers of Peking on its way to radical change as the friction between the old and new rub its edges raw. Ostensibly about the murder of Pamela Werner and her father's fight to find justice for her, the book is at its best where it lingers on the fringes of polite society - jazz, brothels, and opium dens, oh my. I would have liked more social history and less true crime, but overall an enjoyable read and winner of the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger.