Midnight in Peking

Midnight in Peking

Midnight in Peking: The murder that haunted the last days of old China by Paul French had me completely gripped from start to finish. The latest in a sub-genre I enjoy (as described in my blog piece Colonial Misdemeanours), this is a sad and chilling tale of a father’s search for justice for his brutally murdered daughter.

The crime takes place in what was then Peking in 1937 as the Japanese are advancing on the city. Pamela, a young women of 19, is found dismembered, her body dumped under a well known landmark, having failed to come home the night before. Two very contradictory views of her emerge in the investigation that follows – demure schoolgirl versus a popular and attractive young woman.

By the time her body was found her father had already been looking for her throughout the night. Despite their troubled relationship and her sometimes erratic behaviour, he had sensed that her failure to come home meant that there was something seriously wrong.

Every character in this account is vivid and complex – Pamela herself, her father, disliked by most of the ex-pat community throughout his colonial civil service career, the British policemen assigned to help the Chinese police in looking for her who runs himself into the ground, the Chinese policemen who may have participated in a cover-up, and her former school master who disappears under a cloud of suspicion.After the official enquiry dries up, a tireless and ceaseless investigation by her father begins. He never gave up and was still seeking justice even after being interned by the Japanese and surviving life in a prisoner of war camp. I am sure he would appreciate her story being finally told. 

I’m not telling you who did it – you’ll just have to read it.