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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China (Thorndike Large Print Crime Scene) Hardcover – Large Print, 8 Aug 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 435 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (8 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410448967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410448965
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,575,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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 ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was an excellent read. Paul French states his case clearly and makes it abundantly clear that he's very familiar with this part of the world, the time frame and the case he writes about. The prose is clear, uncluttered and very easy to understand without being patronising.

An absolutely fascinating story of one man's desire to find out who killed his daughter.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I could not put this down. It is a well written account of a tragic life. Truly recommended to anyone.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am interested in the history of China and a huge fan of the murder mystery genre and this book seemed to offer both. I was not disappointed. The research seemed impeccable and the storytelling was both engaging and authoritative. It was a very palatable history lesson.
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By Maude on 2 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Purchase this for my kindle as I was going away it was a great read and I can thoroughly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Critical responses to Paul French’s ‘reconstruction’ differ widely but as a work of ‘faction’ it is convincing. It is historical in the sense that the author has carried out a great deal of primary research and uncovered previously unpublished information about the murder of 19-year old Pamela Werner in Beijing early in 1937. However, there is also a great deal of speculation about what the widely differing characters were doing and thinking on any particular occasion. Personally I did not mind this fusion especially when it is presented in such an engaging fashion.

The murder was especially gruesome, Pamela being found at the bottom of the
Fox Tower, eviscerated with her heart and other organs torn out, and her face mutilated. She was the daughter of E. T. C. Werner, a former diplomat and Chinese specialist with a particular interest in mythology. Perhaps the latter explains the author’s references to ‘fox spirits’ searching for victims, which did not gel with the investigatory narrative.

One of the features that attracted the author to the story was that, for political reasons, the investigation involved senior British and Chinese policemen – notably ex-Scotland Yard Inspector Dennis and Colonel Han from the Peking Bureau of Public Safety. However, before long they come up against the pomposity and inefficiency of British diplomats who are more concerned to maintain face than to help bring the killer to justice.
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By F. S. L'hoir VINE VOICE on 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 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 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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5 Comments 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Midnight in Peking - Fiction dressed up as Fact

On first inspection, Midnight in Peking makes for a compelling story. Searching through British Foreign Office pre-war documents at the National Archives at Kew, writer Paul French chanced across the forgotten letters of ETC Werner, retired British consul, eccentric sinologist, and adoptive father of teenage murder victim, Pamela Werner, who was bludgeoned to death by persons unknown while cycling back to their Peking home from ice-skating one cold night in 1937. Her mutilated body, minus its heart, was found naked by the old city wall the next morning.
Intrigued, French read how, over the months and years leading to WW2, Werner's hopes for justice were frustrated by corruption and jealousy among the competing Chinese and British Legation police, obstruction from British diplomats bent on avoiding scandal, and the debauched nature of a western ex-pat community bent on keeping its sordid secrets. Undeterred, the elderly Werner carried on his own investigation, uncovering neglected leads and lost witnesses from among the Chinese community. His dogged persistence eventually led him to discover the shocking truth - a small party of `respected' Europeans preying on local girls for sex at knife-point. Pamela had made the fatal mistake of resisting them.
Isolated and ignored, Werner had despatched his typed letters to the British ambassador in Shanghai, detailing everything he had uncovered and appealing for justice. But it had got him nowhere - the establishment had to keep the lid shut on the scandal at all costs.
So, thanks to French's `reconstructed history', over seventy years after the cover-up and long after Werner's death, the true story could at last be told in the form of Midnight in Peking.
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