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

by |August 2, 2011

January, 1937: Peking is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, lavish cocktail bars and opium debs, warlords and corruption, rumours and superstition – and the clock ticking down on all of it.

In the exclusive Legation Quarter, the foreign residents wait nervously for the axe to fall. Japanese troops have already occupied Manchuria and are poised to advance south. Word has it that Chiang Kai-shek and his shaky government, long since moved to Nanking, are ready to cut a deal with Tokyo and leave Peking to its fate.

Each day brings a ratcheting up of tension for Chinese and foreigners alike inside the ancient city walls. On one of those walls, not far from the nefarious Badlands, is a massive watchtower – haunted, so the locals believe, by fox spirits that prey upon innocent mortals.

Then one bitterly cold night, the body of an innocent mortal is dumped there. It belongs to Pamela Werner, the daughter of a former British consul to China, and when the details of her death become known, people find it hard to credit that any human could threat another in such a fashion. Even as the Japanese noose on the city tightens, the killing of Pamela transfixes Peking.

Seventy-five years after these events, Paul French finally gives the case the resolution it was denied at the time. Midnight in Peking is the unputdownable true story of a murder that will make you hold your loved ones close, and also a sweepingly evocative account of the end of an era.

About the Author:  Paul French (@chinarhyming) studied history, economics and Mandarin in London and has an M.Phil in economics from the University of Glasgow. He is now based in Shanghai as a business advisor and analyst. He is the author of four works of Asian History; Carl Crow: A Tough Old China Hand, North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula, One Billion Shoppers: Accessing Asia’s Consuming Passions, and Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from the Opium Wars to Mao.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.

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Comments

  • evangelia dascarolis

    September 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    ……how can one be not intrigued & not want to read “Midnight in Peking”?……Evangelia……

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