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

by by Paul French

Book list Edward Werner was a noted sinologist and a former British consul living in Peking. His status as a resident foreigner when his daughter was murdered, in January of 1937, while Britain still exercised extraterritorial rights in China, ensured that the crime would merit a high-profile investigation. French has ably reconstructed the detective work and, most evocatively, the atmosphere in which it was conducted. A mood of doom and decadence prevailed in Peking, menaced by the Japanese army and teeming with down-and-outers and expatriates with pasts to conceal. Tracking the lead investigators, one Chinese and one British, French portrays the seedy underworld into which the clues led them, surfacing the detectives in the city's more respectable precincts as the eye of suspicion fell on one suspect or another. From the discovery of the bludgeoned body and throughout the investigation, French's narrative keeps the reader tightly gripped by and emotionally involved with the dead daughter and her obstreperous but determined father, who, after officials closed the case unsolved, pressed for the truth in his own remarkable inquiry. A fine true-crime narrative with crossover appeal to mystery mavens.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Historian French (Through the Looking Glass: China's Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao) unravels a long-forgotten 1937 murder in this fascinating look at Peking (now Beijing) on the brink of Japanese occupation. The severely mutilated body of 19-year-old Pamela Werner-the adopted daughter of noted Sinologist and longtime Peking resident Edward Werner-was discovered, with many of her organs removed, near the border between the Badlands, a warren of alleyways full of brothels and opium dens, and the Legation Quarter, where Peking's foreign set resided in luxury. A case immediately fraught with tension was made even trickier when the local detective, Col. Han Shih-ching, was made to work alongside Scotland Yard-trained Richard Dennis, based in Tientsin. The investigation soon stalled: the actual scene of Pamela's murder could not be found, and leads fizzled out. As China's attention turned to the looming Japanese occupation, the case was deemed "unsolved." French painstakingly reconstructs the crime and depicts the suspects-using Werner's own independent research, conducted after authorities refused to reopen his daughter's case. Compelling evidence is coupled with a keen grasp of Chinese history in French's worthy account. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal In January 1937, the mutilated body of Pamela Werner was found on the outskirts of old Peking (Beijing). After an unsuccessful investigation into the slaughter of this 19-year-old English expatriate, the case was eventually closed and forgotten as World War II escalated in China. Now Shanghai-based business analyst and historian French (Through the Looking Glass: China's Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao) reopens the cold case and attempts to bring some justice to Pamela's memory in this skillfully told true-crime thriller. French writes a remarkably coherent narrative by stringing together details from official police reports, newspaper articles, interviews, and, perhaps most helpful, E.T.C. Werner's report from his personal investigation into his daughter's horrific murder. VERDICT Treating his subjects with expertise and compassion, French creates a riveting portrait of the complicated tensions that existed during wartime in a city on the brink of destruction. As he slowly unravels the clues, he reveals a crime more shocking than anyone had ever imagined. This is a difficult book to put down! Recommended for readers interested in detective novels, Chinese history, and everything in between.-Rebekah Wallin, Paris, France (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.