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Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China

Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China [Kindle Edition]

Paul French
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)

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Product Description


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 )

Product Description

Midnight in Peking is a gripping true murder mystery by Paul French


'A first-rate murder story, a thrilling narrative. Hurtles along from one cliffhanger to the next' Spectator

Peking, 1937:

The teenage daughter of a British consul is brutally slaughtered. The police investigation is botched; as war looms British and Chinese authorities close ranks. A grieving father vows to uncover the truth - alone.

Seventy-five years later, historian Paul French uncovers a stash of forgotten documents revealing the killer's identity . . .

For those who loved The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil this is a riveting and evocative true crime classic.

'Gripping, spellbinding . . . drawing the reader from the very first pages into an unwholesome, macabre world' Guardian

'Part historical docudrama, part tragic opera . . . it is French's enormous achievement that he pieces together the puzzle. He tells this tale with the skill of an Agatha Christie' Financial Times

'Fascinating and irresistible. I couldn't put it down'

John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

'Vivid, pulsating, riveting. It is the storytelling flair that marks Midnight in Peking so highly: with its false leads and twists . . . it sucks the reader in like the best fiction' Scotsman

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

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 30655 KB
  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 014312336X
  • Publisher: Penguin (31 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670921076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670921072
  • ASIN: B007TB5WE2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,953 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Born in London and educated there and in Glasgow, Paul French has lived and worked in Shanghai for many years. He is a widely published analyst and commentator on China and has written a number of books including a history of foreign correspondents in China and a biography of the legendary Shanghai adman, journalist and adventurer Carl Crow.

His most recent book, Midnight in Peking, was an international success becoming a New York Times Bestseller, BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and has been optioned for television by Kudos Film and Television in the UK. Midnight in Peking was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards finalist and also won both the 2013 Edgar Best Fact Crime book award by the Mystery Writers' of America and the Crime Writers' Association (UK) non-fiction Dagger award. The judges praised 'the way he brilliantly evoked the uneasy atmosphere of China's capital 80 years ago.'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Was Pamela? 11 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I heard only one episode of "Midnight in Peking" on BBC Radio 4. I found it so gripping and intriguing that I stopped listening and immediately ordered the book from ([I could have bought one from, but ordering the UK version of the book made it all the more exciting]). I was not disappointed.

Mr French's account of the unsolved brutal murder of young Pamela Werner in the last days before Peking fell to Japanese invaders riveted my attention from beginning to end. The author not only follows the evidential trail of the investigation meticulously, but he also evokes the ambience of Peking's vanished past. He sets the mood in the opening chapter with his evocative account of the reputed malevolent spirits that haunt the Fox Tower, the great eastern gate of the city. I loved his detailed descriptions that swept me from the outwardly respectable elegance of the Legation Quarter into the squalor of the Hutong--the tawdry maze of alleys--of the 'Badlands', with rickshaws, 'fast-food' restaurants, and brothels; where down-at-the-heels Russian emigrés mingled with pimps and prostitutes, as well as with 'respectable' people who were merely out for an evening's slumming.

The book's illustrations--including coloured photos, postcards; newspaper squibs; and black-and-white photographs of the protagonists--enhance the narrative (I especially liked the vintage photo of the long-gowned Peking gentleman walking his caged bird).
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midnight in Peking 5 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a really interesting and evocative true crime novel, set in Peking as it is poised on the brink of WWII. On a bleak January morning in 1937, the body of a young girl is found at the bottom of Fox Tower, a looming watchtower rumoured to be haunted by spirits. The girl is nineteen year old Pamela Werner and the motive is not robbery, as her expensive watch has stopped near midnight. The murder shocks the foreign inhabitants of Peking, who are already nervous about the possibility of invasion by Japanese troops and who huddle in the Legation Quarter trying to carry on life as normal. It shocks them still more when they discover the way Pamela's body has been mutilated.

The book contains detail of the hunt for Pamela's killer, her life as the adopted daughter of a scholar, motives for her murder and a final, thrilling and horrifying conclusion of what happened to her that fateful night. Along the way we meet the inhabitants of the teeming Badlands area, various cover ups and an innocent young girl who becomes the victim of rumour - viewed either as a troubled schoolgirl, or a rather fast young lady who had too many suitors. Her father is also the victim of those who dislike his inability to fit in with the ex pat community; who distrust his lack of sociability and his embracing of Chinese culture. This is a fascinating account of Peking before the war, of a forign community who were unwilling to accept any of them could be guilty of such a terrible crime and of the innocent Pamela herself who highlighted the community's insecurities. This is a well written and interesting account of what happened and, lastly, I read the kindle edition of this book and the illustrations were included.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fox Spirits at the Fox Tower 21 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
On a frozen morning in January 1937, the body of Pamela Werner, the teenage daughter of Peking's (Beijing's) former British consul is found - her heart has been removed ...

The body is found near the Fox Tower - a place with lots of superstitious stories about Fox Spirits & death.

Paul French looks at the historical facts about the case and gives us his conclusion on "who killed Pamela?" Of course we do not know if he is correct but what he does is give us the detail of how the case was handled and how much was swept under the carpet and tries to imagine from the evidence what might have happened.

I have not read many true-crime books but I certainly found this one very interesting. I have visited Beijing in the 1990s several times so was very interested in this book. I never saw the Fox Tower - from readings I gather that it has been restored more recently, but I have visited other similar towers and city walls.

His descriptions of life in China in the 1930s are very good as are the descriptions of the the old HUTONG - alley ways and paths - which have disappeared from much of Beijing today (especially I gather in rebuilding for the Olympics). These were brought to life and matched my recollection of other cities in China with the dirt & lack of street lighting.

I think if I had read about this murder as fiction I would have thought it very far fetched - as a true story it is quite shocking as to how it was investigated - one can only hope that a similar murder today would be treated better by the authorities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping - but with slight reservations 20 Sep 2012
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an engaging journalistic interpretation of the murder and consequent investigations into the death of Pamela Werner in 1937 Peking. I say `investigations' in the plural since the book follows first the official detectives, British and Chinese; and then, quite late in the book (p.172 of 245 pages), turns to the enquiries of Pamela's father. This is one of the slightly jarring notes in this book that could have been tightened up by a stricter editor. It feels a bit off, for example, that after we've been told that the police haven't been able to sleep for days, have been chain-smoking and drinking from stress and anxiety, that Pamela's father then finds that they haven't made some quite basic connections in the case, haven't circulated photos of possible suspects or even shown them around the street where Pamela lives - once the father does this, the case - apparently - is cracked open.

I didn't know anything about this story before reading the book so have no idea if other theories or solutions exist - certainly this is very reliant on contemporary newspaper sources and a father's notes for its `facts'.

The narrative, at times, gets a bit bogged down in people's back-stories rather than driving the `plot' forward - and the attempt to somehow make the Werner murder epitomise the last days of `old' China before World War II and the establishment of The People's Republic doesn't quite work.

That said, this is a gripping read - recommended with slight reservations.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A sharp story
A very readable tale of prewar Peking, the last flickering of the British Empire and of the chaos of China in the 1930's - some good characters drawn, Han, Dennis even the vile... Read more
Published 26 days ago by anicoll5
4.0 out of 5 stars A Real Oriental Mystery.
What a mystery! As someone interested in murder, both real and fictional, why had I never heard of this one? Perhaps because it happened in Beijing. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Tigercat
This true story has it all, history, mystery, and the perseverance of one man. The meeting of the father with his daughter's murderer is almost impossible to believe.
Published 28 days ago by David P Gasslein
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder mystery in a historical context
Fascinating read. A very different era, in a country that was changing dramatically and bears little resemblance today to what was then. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rosielee
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor
Needs an editor. Turgid prose. Tacky attempt to make a few pounds. Sorry, thought it would be good, keen to read about 'old China' as I have lived in Beijing but this book was most... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kevin Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing.
I could not put this down. It is a well written account of a tragic life. Truly recommended to anyone.
Published 1 month ago by Ms. Katheryn Yates
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written book that's hard to put down
A very enjoyable read. This is a book that you just want to keep reading, as there's so many people that you suspect of committing the murder.
Published 2 months ago by Aileen Susan Langley
4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical who-dunnit
An unusual historical thriller set against a Chinese background. The exotic details point up the essential mystery. The final revelation is unexpected. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Norman Bishop
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked the way this was written
I really liked this book, but felt haunted for some time by the lack of definitive answers around the death of the daughter (as it was based around a true story). Read more
Published 4 months ago by Susie Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly amazing story
So much research has gone into crafting this book excellent read i couldnt put it down at all also the photos at the end are helpful
Published 4 months ago by lisa warvill
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