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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a…
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Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the… (original 2011; édition 2013)

par Paul French (Auteur)

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6354527,236 (3.8)69
Historian and China expert Paul French uncovers the truth behind the notorious murder of Pamela Werner, and offers a rare glimpse of the last days of colonial Peking.
Membre:mirrorlake
Titre:Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
Auteurs:Paul French (Auteur)
Info:Penguin Books (2013), Edition: Illustrated, 272 pages
Collections:Votre bibliothèque
Évaluation:****
Mots-clés:Non Fiction, History, True Crime, 1900's China, China, Asia, Beijing

Détails de l'œuvre

Minuit à Pékin par Paul French (2011)

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In late 1930s Beijing, the teenage daughter of a British colonial officer was brutally murdered, her body horrifically mutilated and discarded, a death horrific enough to make headlines even amid the fraught climate of a city on the verge of invasion by Japanese imperial forces. Paul French works hard to give this work of true crime the suspense and immediacy of a thriller novel, and the empathy he shows for the murder victim—Pamela Werner, just 19—is welcome. I'm glad that he doesn't lose sight of the tragedy of her death.

However, the fact that Werner's murder was (at least officially) unsolved, and that both the formal investigation and public interest in it petered out comparatively quickly means that Midnight in Peking loses momentum after about the halfway point. I'm also not sure that French convinced me that the Werner murder really does tell us all that much about 1930s Beijing, particularly since the sources he's working with are largely written from a European colonialist perspective. And while it's entirely possible that the men whom French names here as her killers were indeed culpable, it should be noted that questions have been raised about the integrity with which he presents some of the evidence he draws on.

(I get the difficulties in trying to parse the identities of historical figures in contemporary terms, especially when dealing with a very fragmentary sourcebase, but I was very uncomfortable with the fact that French chose to repeatedly refer to one person as a "hermaphrodite.") ( )
  siriaeve | Jan 21, 2021 |
Good Read, Lots of Atmosphere, Not Much Meat

"Midnight in Peking" is a decent read. The book is very atmospheric. Almost all of the research regarding the murder comes from the father of the victim's notes. The author seems to have done a lot of other research that was unnecessary, such as describing weather conditions, irrelevant biographies of other "characters," and tangential political events happening at the time of the murder. This book easily could be whittled down to a nice article. The author deserves tremendous credit for keeping the myriad of characters readable: whenever he brings up a minor character for a second or third time, he adds a quick tag to remind the reader what that character did previously.

I think I approached this book with the impression that I would learn more about Beijing at the time. This expectation was not met, so I was a little disappointed. Although I tended not to like some of the digressions, I did enjoy reading about Beijing's odd mix of foreigners before the war. ( )
  mvblair | Aug 9, 2020 |
A fascinating recount of a gruesome crime in old Peking. ( )
  zhoud2005 | Jan 2, 2020 |
This is a true crime story, and thanks to author Paul French's superior writing and research skills, it reads wonderfully well. Author Paul French writes a gripping tale, and because he is an historian, he also adds rich historical detail to the story line that makes the book even more interesting.

This true-crime story revolves around the brutal murder of Pamela Werner, a young British woman and daughter of British diplomat, scholar, and Old China Hand Edward Werner. The story is set in the Legation Quarter, an area of old Peking (now called Beijing) where all the foreign diplomatic legations were found. The Legation was also where all the foreigners lived, worked, and played. They had a self-indulgent and decadent lifestyle almost completely unaffected by the huge city and country surrounding them. But external events intruded. This was 1937, and the foreigners - mainly European and Americans - knew that their days were numbered. Japanese troops were gathering on the outskirts of Peking preparing for the invasion and occupation of both Peking and all of China that came a few months later.

I learned some new things from reading this book, for example, the plight of White Russians who lived in China during this period. I also enjoyed the brief appearance of Helen Foster Snow who thought briefly that she might have been the target of the murderer. It was curious to discover that Helen and her journalist husband Edgar Snow lived the high society life in Peking during the time when they weren't roughing it with Mao in the caves at Yan'an.

Given the tensions of the time leading up to the Japanese invasion, the joint British-Chinese investigation into Pamela's death was ultimately cut short. Edward Werner relentlessly pursued the search for his daughter's killers, and he left behind detailed documents that French was able to access for this book. We come to the end with a pretty sure notion of who committed the crime and why. Getting to that conclusion was worth the effort. This is a real page-turner. I understand, not surprisingly, that _Midnight in Peking_ has been optioned for a movie and also won Edgar Awards. ( )
  C.J.Shane | Feb 22, 2019 |
ARC review. I found the historic details of this book very interesting. I don't know much about Peking/Beijing in any period - honestly, I still don't feel I know much, since so much of the story is based on English records of the murder at the center of the story. (French does a good job of acknowledging, even pointing up the colonial bias, but that doesn't eliminate it. Worse, the main Chinese character proves duplicitous/unknowable towards the end of the book - reinforcing the image of the impenetrable East.) But I was hooked regardless, sucked into the world of the book for a full day, and I came out wanting to learn more about the place and period. ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
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The north wind came in the night, ice covers the waters: Once our young sister has gone she will never return. - Traditional Song of the Canal People of Northern China Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight. - Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Fautus

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. - Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
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For the innocent. For Pamela
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The eastern section of old Peking has been dominated since the fifteenth century by a looming watchtower, built as part of the Tartar Wall to protect the city from invaders.
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Historian and China expert Paul French uncovers the truth behind the notorious murder of Pamela Werner, and offers a rare glimpse of the last days of colonial Peking.

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Description du livre
Pékin, janvier 1937. Le corps d'une jeune femme, atrocement mutilé, est retrouvé dans le vieux quartier de la Légation. Pamela Werner, 20 ans, était la fille adoptive de l'ancien consul de Grande-Bretagne. Crime d'un rôdeur ou affaire d'État ? L'inspecteur Dennis est dépêché par le Foreign Office. Or, dans un Pékin en plein chaos politique et en pleine dépravation morale où planent les rumeurs de l’invasion japonaise, personne n'est pressé de voir la vérité éclater. Cet assassinat pourrait bien faire l'effet d'une bombe diplomatique... Soixante-quinze ans plus tard, après une enquête qui l’a mené à interroger les derniers témoins et à fouiller les notes, jusqu'alors classées secret défense, du père de la victime, Paul French dévoile le nom du monstre qui a tué Pamela et terrorisé Pékin. Un true crime exceptionnel. Mi-documentaire, mi-fiction, un roman passionnant. Julie Malaure, Le Point.
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2 éditions de ce livre ont été publiées par Penguin Australia.

Éditions: 0670080926, 0143567527

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