Monday, April 16, 2012
Midnight in Peking by Paul French
The Subtitle of this book is: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China. This is a nonfiction story about a nineteen year old woman murdered in Peking. The murder was never really resolved. The various politics and bribes kept the case from going forward. No one cared about her then, and I'm sure she'd be surprised to find that someone has written a book about her now.
Penguin and Edelweiss gave me the opportunity to read this ebook for review (thank you). The book will be published April 24th, so add it to your TBR list now.
Mr. French has analyzed the time period (1937), the various countries involved, how much pressure was brought upon the detectives, and how ineffectual the police really were. What started as a horrific murder looked like it would be easy to solve as soon as they found the source of the blood, but that was never located. There were missing witnesses, orders not to talk to certain individuals, pay-offs and other bad behavior by the police themselves, and the case was closed as unsolvable.
What really stood out to me was that her adoptive father, who was 70 at her death, continued on in his quest to find her killer. He had lived in China for years and could speak their language, he had some money, and he paid for information. That allowed him to go further than the police.
This was a time of terrific turmoil in the city. They had Russian immigrants, poor Chinese farmers being run into the city to get away from the war on their land, Japanese moving in, British influence and more than one faction of China warlords trying to grab Peking. It was not a good time to try to resolve the crime and it was very easy for the British detective to offend someone because he did not understand their culture.
It's a very detailed story that drew me in and kept me reading. I was astonished at what her father was able to discover. I was also sorry that Pamela died so young (19). She was no angel but she died because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just a few more days and she wouldn't have been in Peking any longer. Unfortunately, she didn't make it. She's going to be in my thoughts for a while. She's not a ghost but Mr. French's words are going to haunt me.
Why not get a copy for you and watch how this story unfolds. You'll need to keep reminding yourself this is non-fiction; it just doesn't feel like it.