Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
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Winner of the both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger
Chronicling an incredible unsolved murder, Midnight in Peking captures the aftermath of the brutal killing of a British schoolgirl in January 1937. The mutilated body of Pamela Werner was found at the base of the Fox Tower, which, according to local superstition, is home to the maliciously seductive fox spirits. As British detective Dennis and Chinese detective Han investigate, the mystery only deepens and, in a city on the verge of invasion, rumor and superstition run rampant. Based on seven years of research by historian and China expert Paul French, this true-crime thriller presents readers with a rare and unique portrait of the last days of colonial Peking.
request—white girls, Chinese girls, Chinese boys. The Olympia Cabaret was a popular spot, as were the Manhattan nightclub, the Alcazar, the Olympic Theatre and the Roma, White Russian–run Kavkaz and the Korean-run White Palace Dance Hall. About halfway along its length, Chuanpan Hutong formed a junction with Hougou Hutong, which ran down to the Tartar Wall. The wall formed a natural southern border of the Badlands, extending all the way to the Tartar City and the Fox Tower. On Hougou Hutong,
had been recovered nearby. Han kept the photos taken at the medical college in a bland manila envelope locked in his desk drawer. He had shown them to Dennis, of course, but they were too gruesome to be put on display, and the risk was too great that some constable looking for extra money at New Year would sell them to the press. Han had been hearing gossip about Werner, and what he’d learnt he now told Dennis. The servants’ talk was that Pamela’s father was a strange man, though a
Some fifty people gathered at the open graveside in the British Cemetery, where the gravediggers had had to work hard to break the frozen ground. It was late afternoon, and the weak sun was already going down, accentuating the unremitting January cold that chilled the lungs of the mourners. Grey clouds swept across the sky; sunset would come before five o’clock, followed rapidly by the gloaming and then night. Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of
heard of Pamela before her murder. ‘I have never seen the girl in my life,’ he told the police outright. When asked where he was on the night of 7 January, he said he had finished work and then gone to see a film at a cinema on Morrison Street. No, he didn’t have the ticket stub, and yes, he’d gone alone. It was a perfectly natural thing to do, he claimed—he used to go regularly with his wife when she was in Peking, but now had no choice but to go by himself. He missed his family.
Tientsin, they had never adjusted to living in cramped barracks, using fetid toilets, queuing for meagre food rations, and clothing themselves in virtual rags. Many of the older prisoners had succumbed to disease, or simply given up and died. But not Werner. Despite being in his eighties, he walked out of the camp and took the train home to Peking. He moved back into his old house on Armour Factory Alley, where his loyal staff had stayed on in order to stop squatters taking possession.