Midnight in Peking
Midnight in Peking
How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
- Paul French
- May 11, 2012
January, 1937: Peking is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, lavish cocktail bars and opium dens, warlords and corruption, rumors and superstition—and the clock is 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 fled to Nanking, are ready to cut a deal with Tokyo and leave Peking to its fate. Each day brings a racheting 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 treat 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 un-put-downable 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. —Penguin Books
Paul French is a business advisor and analyst based in Shanghai. Born in London and educated there and in Glasgow, French has lived and worked in China for many years. He is a widely published commentator on China and has written a number of books dealing with China’s pre-1949 history. His previous titles include The Old Shanghai A-Z (Hong Kong University Press, 2010) and Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao (Hong Kong University Press, 2009)