Midnight in Peking is a true-crime novel set in Peking in 1937 in the midst of China's civil war and shortly before the invasion of Japan. In fact, the Japanese have already begun preparations and are encamped right outside the city.
When the body of a foreigner, a young woman, is discovered brutally murdered, the situation is fraught with political ramifications. Not only is the victim a young white woman, nineteen-year-old Pamela Werner, daughter of a former British consul, but the murder is so savage that even experienced policemen are appalled.
French researched the events thoroughly and presents the evidence discovered, the obstacles presented by the British Legation, the cover-ups, the attempts to save face, and the corruption.
When both the British and Chinese detectives were stymied by circumstances and the investigation closed, Pamela's father, the seventy-five-year-old E.T.C. Werner, began his own investigation, spending the last years of his life pursuing the evidence and the leads that might bring his daughter's murderer to justice.
What the official detectives failed to discover, Pamela's father doggedly seeks, using his own money to follow the trail and to hire private detectives to aid in the search. The characters he encounters are often seedy, sinister, and in the case of the White Russian hermaphrodite, bizarre.
The story French reveals is based largely on Werner's notes and letters to the authorities as he relentlessly tracks down anyone with information about what really happened that January night in 1937.
The book reads like something between a case history and a novel. The story, the villains, the collusions and deceptions, even the characters are almost more fantastic than fiction.
I think I first read about this novel at Mary's Library, and I'm glad I added it to my TBR list and found it at the library.
Nonfiction. Crime. 2012. 272 pages.