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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Was Pamela?
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 Amazon.co.uk ([I could have bought one from Amazon.com, 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...
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by F. S. L'hoir

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Swiss Cheese?
I found this book a bit like Swiss cheese, pleasant enough to eat, easily digestible, but when you come to look at it full of holes. It is good at describing the feel and atmosphere of old Peking, as well as the complicated political situation. Read as a detective story, the reader is breathlessly drawn to agree with the assumptions of initially DCI Dennis and when he is...
Published on 11 Aug 2012 by KAW


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Real Oriental Mystery., 21 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Paperback)
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. This story of a father's pursuit of justice for his savagely murdered and mutilated daughter is a constant page-turner. Mr French approaches the mystery, not as a writer of detective fiction, but as an historian, and that adds to the story, he doesn't have to search for angles, the real plot is full of them! A great read about a slaying in the shadow of the Japanese atrocities in wartime China. This is a world that has disappeared but Paul French brings it vividly back to life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder mystery in a historical context, 12 Mar 2014
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Fascinating read. A very different era, in a country that was changing dramatically and bears little resemblance today to what was then. The introverted conclave of foreign residents who closed ranks to freeze out a proper investigation of the dreadful murder are surely as guilty as the perpetrators who killed and mutilated Pamela for whom there was no justice. She had a short and tragic life and was mourned only by her father who made it his life's work to seek out her attackers and find the truth of her awful death, which is possibly what kept him going even when interned. The irony of sharing that internment with the man he was certain had killed his child is staggering. Truly life can be more cruel and astonishing than fiction. Thanks to the author Pamela' s story is not forgotten..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical who-dunnit, 31 Dec 2013
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Norman Bishop (Aby, near Norrköping, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Paperback)
An unusual historical thriller set against a Chinese background. The exotic details point up the essential mystery. The final revelation is unexpected. It is a true story deftly researched and described. A good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly amazing story, 23 Nov 2013
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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
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully researched and written., 15 Nov 2013
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Very clear narrative, beautiful descriptions of old Peking - really sensed the location, and the atmosphere of the streets. Characters brought to life with the right balance of facts and forensic details. Appreciated the last chapter in which the later lives of the people involved was explained. Thoroughly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly compassionate true life murder mystery, 15 Oct 2012
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Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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It's easy to see what attracted Paul French to this tragic story: an unsolved murder in an exotic location on the threshold of huge historical events that would help bury the case and leave it unsolved for decades, it's the kind of thing thriller writers dream of. Yet while French certainly delivers on that promise, clearly defining but not overdescribing the cast of characters and the time and place they inhabited, he does something much rarer - he shows a surprising compassion for the victim who was briefly a subject of tabloid speculation before weightier events led to her being forgotten. Rather than simply regarding her almost as a necessary plot device, there's a growing outrage that she was denied justice that drives him on to try to solve the mystery for himself. It's particularly unusual in a genre where the real victims are usually sidelined in favour of theorising over the 'more interesting' perpetrator of the crime, which adds a surprising amount of understated weight to the book, never forgetting that a life was lost in the desire to track down whodunnit. And it still manages to work as both a social history and as a murder mystery, even if the solution can never be tested in court. It's a fine piece of work that stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating true crime, 1 July 2012
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Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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At the time of her murder Pamela Werner was a 19-year-old schoolgirl living in Peking (now Beijing) with her elderly father, a noted scholar and former British Consul. The city at the time was full of wealthy foreigners enjoying the tea dances, cocktails, bridge parties, and gossip that came with expatriate life. They lived in the Legation Quarter, a walled area over which the Chinese had no jurisdiction. Alongside this privileged bubble was the Badlands, another area mostly populated by foreigners who made a sordid living in its bars, opium dens, and brothels. The year, however, was 1937 and the Japanese were closing in on the city and time was running out for the people of Peking and their former lives.

Pamela's murder shook this community and the case was made even more dreadful by the gruesome mutilations that had been perpetrated on her body. In "Midnight in Peking" French recounts the investigation into her murder, the competing interests of the various parties, and the many dirty secrets uncovered by the investigation (as well as the shocking cover-ups which followed).

French vividly recreates Peking at this pivotal point in history using Pamela's murder to cast a spotlight on its inhabitants and their lives. Pamela's father, 72 at the time of her death, emerges as a sort of hero, doggedly staying on the case and finally solving a mystery which no-one else had the time or inclination for. Although non-fiction "Midnight in Peking" reads like a novel at times with French recreating his subjects' thoughts and cleverly marshaling his facts to keep the reader in suspense. I suspect that a lot of details have been lost with the passage of time, but sometimes I did find myself wanting more information. I also felt the inclusion of a map would have been very helpful. These are minor complaints, though, and overall I found this a fascinating insight into a vanished world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and shocking story of old Peking., 12 Jun 2012
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Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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I'm not sure why I chose this book to read because I don't know anything about the time or the place and I had never heard anything about the murder of Pamela Werner before. I am, however, really glad that I picked it out because I was enthralled from start to finish.

Peking in the late 1930s was a city on the brink of an abyss. The Japanese were looming, the government of China was in disarray and conflict in Europe was drawing ever nearer. On a freezing January day a young girl's body was found at the base of the Fox tower watchtower just outside the British legation quarter. The body had been badly mutilated and her heart and other organs were missing.
The murder of this young laowai (foreigner), who was identified as Pamela Werner the daughter of a former British consul, sent shock waves through the Peking community of all races and cultures and what follows in this engrossing book is a thorough re-examination of the evidence.

Paul French uncovers the violent, decadent and shocking lives of the expatriate community in Peking and the drug and drink fuelled underbelly of the city. Pamela Werner's father, E.T.C Werner, was a familiar figure in the Peking community. He was a reclusive academic who had made some enemies but the stonewalls, conspiracy and cover-ups he encountered in his search for his daughters killers make the reader feel as angry and as impotent as he must have felt at the time.

Paul French's book has written a brilliantly absorbing true crime book which had me gripped from beginning to end. The background story of Peking's implosion and the tricky relationships between the different cultures are really interesting and help to set the scene and the crime in context. French cuts through the rumour and gossip that surrounded the murder to bring Pamela herself to life again and show her as the young, independent innocent that she clearly was who had no idea how dangerous Peking really was.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, 9 Jun 2012
By 
David Cranson (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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A wonderfully written and researched book, detailing the lives and times of 'society' people - mainly British - in 1930s Peking. Also detailing the rotten core of a society turning a blind eye to vice, murder and crime in general.

White society - again mainly British/English - wanting to ignore or hide the scandals tat erupted now and again. The Brits not wanting to let slip the public face or respectability and stiff-upper-lipness. Pretending that things did not happen. Ignoring the deep-filled putridness, not only of the 'underclasses', but especially of those of the upper classes, the club members - the wealthy.

Pamela Werner was a girl who was looking for some escape from her life, but unfortunately found something much, much worse. The anger one feels at the stupidity and temerity of the ruling classes of the time and place is matched only by the sorrow one feels for the lack of respect for one man - her father.

A book that must be read by people who pretend that - even today - 'society people' are beyond reproach. People who believe that it is only the poor and downtrodden who are capable of crime and ugliness.

One feels that today money & influence still have the power to perjure and distort truth and justice. It is shameful to read that it was the Americans - and other 'foreigners' who offered to help. The British establishment turned their backs, ignoring and slandering.

This book deserves to be at the top of the best seller lists for a long-long time. There should be a major TV investigation done. This should all be brought out into the light, in the hope that this kind of thing is never allowed to happen again.

Brilliant, shocking, searing, damning and fascinating all in equal measure.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 16 Jun 2012
I was given this book, and, as a fiction reader and an avoider of crime novels, films, tv programmes etc, I didn't expect to like it much, if at all. But within a few pages I was thoroughly gripped. To the point where I had to keep reading until 3 in the morning to finish it. The bare bones of the case itself are intriguing and extraordinary anyway but I particularly liked Paul French's story telling. As in a murder case, everything is relevant until it's solved so I disagree with reviewers who disliked the inclusion of irrelevant details. All of this tangential information gives the story context, historical, political and social background and wonderful period colour. French writes quite visually so I found myself very quickly immersed in the city and it's strangeness. I also liked the fact that while French writes with detailed precision about the case, he does so warmly so that we never forget the tragedy at its heart. My only picky point is that I would have liked a map of the city as it would have saved French repeating descriptions of locations (ie, in relation to Fox Tower and the Werner house.) In short - an excellent read. Gripping and shocking - because it's true - and very moving. I've since bought 2 copies for friends. Highly recommended.
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