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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a…

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the… (original 2011; edition 2013)

by Paul French

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332None33,165 (3.87)49
Title:Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
Authors:Paul French
Info:Penguin Books (2013), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Read 2013, Own, ARC, Your library, eBook
Tags:fiction, netgalley, arc, nonfiction, history, china, 1930s, japanese invasion, murder, prostitution, drugs, true crime, WWII

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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French (2011)


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I won an advanced reading copy of this novel through the GoodReads First Reads programme.

French draws an interesting portrayal of Peking in the late 1930s and presents the sad details surrounding Pamela Werner's murder in a clear and accessible manner. I was especially interested by daily life in Peking, the way in which the police approached the investigation and the larger political issues that the inhabitants of the city faced with the Japanese approaching. I highly recommend this book for its informative take and for bringing the case of Pamela Werner to the fore. you could read my full review of the book over at my blog: http://www.caffeinatedlife.net/blog/2012/02/24/review-midnight-in-peking/ ( )
  caffeinatedlife | Jan 24, 2014 |
This was an informative account of a mysterious murder in Peking on the brink of the Japanese occupation. ( )
  krin5292 | Jan 5, 2014 |
This book ultimately left me flat. I really enjoyed the history about the region during this time. I am always amazed at how much is not commonly understood about things that are not really that old. I also enjoyed the middle of the book which was more of a detective story. From there the story kind of wandered, as it was set up as a detective story and then the detectives left. I realize that this was based on real events, so the author was obligated to tell these events as they occurred, however the shift in storytelling was unsatisfying. I am still very glad that I read this. This is a time and place that I knew very little about and this was very enlightening. ( )
  MLBowers | Nov 4, 2013 |
I had hopes for this book given the PR, but was really disappointed by the prose (repetative: dive bars; brothels, tiffin, everyone was seething or stiff/straight-backed) and the pacing of the book was as uneven as a Kenyan road post-flood.

The idea of solving a murder is cute, but no evidence in the sources given (most are incorrect btw) exists.
Meanwhile the author condemns the memory of many men, when in reality, the father was 'morbidly suspicious' and 'completely mad'.

If I may, I'd like to share a link so other readers can see the archive material omitted by the author/book. If it was fiction, this wouldnt matter, but it is sold as 100% accurate, which is a little far from the mark IMHO.

pamelawernermurderpeking dot com

Lots of interesting archive material about the period and a rather telling section listing the book's "sources in detail". ( )
  werner_compiler | Oct 14, 2013 |
Midnight in Peking is not your average supermarket/drugstore true crime novel filled with lurid pictures and speculation. This is true crime as vehicle for social history, much like the books TJ English writes so wonderfully well. In the opening of the book, a young woman's body is discovered - she is brutally, terribly, shockingly dead - the victim of unspeakable crime. She is also British. China is hounded by the Japanese, the world is on the brink of its second World War (or World War I - part II, as I like to describe the inevitable sequel), and the story makes headlines.

Mr. French introduces us to the China of the period, but also offers insight into investigative techniques of the time, the way foreigners in Peking fit into the city (in their own quarters and without), the nature of diplomatic face saving, and a tantalizing glimpse in the Badlands - that sinful place of crime and debauchery. He details the official investigation (where the crime went cold) and the unofficial investigation run by the victim's father (where the crime was solved). Along the way were diplomats, Chinese students, European wastrels, prostitutes, pimps, petty thieves, rooming house denizens, and everything in-between.

Midnight in Peking is a glimpse under the covers of Peking on its way to radical change as the friction between the old and new rub its edges raw. Ostensibly about the murder of Pamela Werner and her father's fight to find justice for her, the book is at its best where it lingers on the fringes of polite society - jazz, brothels, and opium dens, oh my. I would have liked more social history and less true crime, but overall an enjoyable read and winner of the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger. ( )
  kraaivrouw | Oct 4, 2013 |
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The north wind came in the night, ice covers the waters: Once our young sister has gone she will never return. - Traditional Song of the Canal People of Northern China Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight. - Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Fautus

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. - Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
For the innocent. For Pamela
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The eastern section of old Peking has been dominated since the fifteenth century by a looming watchtower, built as part of the Tartar Wall to protect the city from invaders.
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Peking in 1937 is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, opulence and opium dens, rumors and superstition. The Japanese are encircling the city, and the discovery of Pamela Werner's body sends a shiver through already nervous Peking. Is it the work of a madman? One of the ruthless Japanese soldiers now surrounding the city? Or perhaps the dreaded fox spirits? With the suspect list growing and clues sparse, two dectectivres-one British and one Chinese-race against the clock to solve the crime before the Japanese invade and Peking as they know it is gone forever. Can they find the killer in time? (ARC)
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Historian and China expert Paul French uncovers the truth behind the notorious murder of Pamela Werner, and offers a rare glimpse of the last days of colonial Peking.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0670080926, 0143567527

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