Midnight in Peking

Written by Paul French
Review by Marina Maxwell

In 1937, as the Japanese mustered to invade China, the body of an English girl, Pamela Werner, was found in the badlands of Peking (Beijing) beneath an ancient haunted tower. As the daughter of a former British consul, her death caused a sensation and, to add to the horror, she had been mutilated and eviscerated.

With destiny bearing down on the city, it seemed inevitable that the investigation would be hasty and patchy with an unsatisfactory outcome and the perpetrator(s) never brought to justice. Pamela was relegated to a footnote of history until a recent lucky find in the Scotland Yard archives sent Paul French on a quest to solve the riddle.

With incisive storytelling, he evokes vivid images of the old China as he follows clues left by Pamela’s father, who tried to solve the case while negotiating the hazards of British face-saving pomposity, triads, opium dens, sex cults and prostitution rackets, not to mention the bullets of a conflict that was the curtain-raiser to World War II.

This is such a cracking good story, it’s guaranteed to keep you up well beyond midnight. Five star writing, in both true crime and history. Highly recommended.