Josie's Reviews > Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China

Midnight in Peking by Paul French
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's review
Apr 13, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: first-reads

I received Midnight in Peking through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

This is an, enthralling, if rather disturbing, book that reminds me strongly of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. I am unfamiliar with Paul French's other work, but after this, I may have to see what else he has written. Midnight in Peking details the murder of Pamela Werner in 1937 Peking, and the investigation that follows. French's approach draws on historical accounts, as well as the correspondence and notes that Pamela's father wrote in the years following her death.

French does an excellent job of conveying the delicacy of the police investigation, where both Chinese and British politics must be carefully navigated to save face. He also describes the unsettled state of Peking and China as a whole in the late 30s, and spends a chapter on the Japanese threat and subsequent invasion.

Although Pamela's murder ultimately remained unsolved by the police, French uses the trail her father left behind to point to the likely killer(s). Although this is a slender volume which could have perhaps benefited from some reprints of the letters in question (plus I'm just curious about Werner's Chinese penmanship), he makes a compelling case.

There were a few minor typographical errors, but I presume those will be fixed for the final publication, due out next month.
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