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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
272 pages; Penguin
When Pamela Werner is brutally murdered and her body is mauled, then left in full public view a few hundred yards from her home, all of Peking is in uproar. It's 1937, and the city is under threat of invasion by Japan. The hideous crime (this book is not for the squeamish) terrifies the city's Chinese and European residents alike. Two detectives, Colonel Han, chief of police for the south east section of Peking, and DCI Dennis, chief inspector with the British Municipal Council in Tientsin, are assigned to investigate. As they dig deeper and find themselves stymied at every turn—the invasion looming ever closer—it becomes clear that a killer will never be found. Except when real life inserts itself. Because the real Pamela Werner was killed in Peking in 1937, and Paul French, the author of this fascinating thriller/true-crime story, has found her killer. French, a meticulous researcher, takes his reader through the full investigation, using the perspective of the police and Pamela's distraught father. Eventually, he reveals the truth about the young woman's demise. It's an engrossing read, and while the knowledge of (precisely) how Pamela lost her life is chilling and disturbing, there's an unexpected pleasure that comes from knowing that after all these years, the truth has finally come to light.
— Nathalie Gorman