Book review: Midnight in Peking
BOOK: Midnight in Peking
AUTHOR: Paul French
PUBLISHER: Penguin Aust
LONDONER Paul French has lived and worked in Shanghai for many years and is a widely published analyst and commentator on China.
His latest book is a fast-paced, true-crime thriller, based on his painstaking research into the life and times of Pamela Werner and her unsolved murder.
While searching through uncategorised boxes sent from Peking during the Second World War, French stumbled across a report by the dead girl's father, Edward Werner, who had devoted five years attempting to solve a case that was largely ignored.
On a cold, January morning in 1937, Pamela's body was found near the Western Legation Quarter.
In spite of its hedonistic lifestyle, it was already a dying and decadent colony, with its residents blissfully unaware of the starving masses outside and the impending Japanese assault on the city.
Just outside the compound, a dark network of alleys housed brothels, dive bars and opium dens.
It was here that Pamela was found.
The subsequent police investigation was bogged down in red tape, covered up by the authorities and then quietly shelved.
The elite was concerned only to protect its position of wealth and privilege.
Seventy-five years after the event, French cannot claim to have solved the murder, although he presents us with plenty of suspects.
However he achieves his aim with this gripping story -giving voice to a long-forgotten mission for justice.