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Is it the work of a madman? One of the ruthless Japanese soldiers now surrounding the city? Or perhaps the dreaded fox spirits?

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With the suspect list growing and clues sparse, two detectives—one British and one Chinese—race against the clock to solve the crime before the Japanese invade and Peking as they know it is gone forever. Can they find the killer in time, before the Japanese invade? Historian and China expert Paul French at last uncovers the truth behind this notorious murder, and offers a rare glimpse of the last days of colonial Peking.

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Pamela had been an ordinary expatriate schoolgirl, something of a loner, but keen on ice-skating and listening to big bands on the radio. Unusually, though, she spoke fluent Mandarin.

Midnight in Peking - Paul French - Review

Was there a hidden side to her life, people asked, that had led to her terrible death? An investigation was launched, but it quickly ran into trouble. The Legation Quarter of the city where expatriates under treaty protection tended to live was at the heart of the investigation, and an unusual joint Chinese-British police operation was instigated to get at the truth.

Yet over and over again, the police were steered away from details that might throw the spotlight of blame on to the white community.

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Perhaps it was more convenient, and less embarrassing, to think that crazed Chinese ritual killers might be responsible. Paul French's narrative of the investigation is spellbinding, drawing the reader from the very first pages into an unwholesome, macabre world where nothing seems to make sense.

A respectable American dentist turns out to be the leader of a nudist club and his own consulate thinks him capable of more sinister and abusive activity. An upright schoolteacher is found to have sadistic tendencies and is shipped off to Britain. Even Werner, the scholar who turned detective, comes over as an obsessive as well he might do with a murdered daughter , a man of violent temper who had broken a young Chinese man's nose for daring to talk to Pamela.

The British authorities in China did their best to try to preserve their mystique of superiority in the face of the murder, thwarting attempts by British and Chinese detectives alike to penetrate into the "badlands" of the city to search for clues in a steamy quarter of brothels and dope dens. As war with Japan loomed, Werner became ever more frantic to find out the truth. A plausible account of what might have happened did eventually emerge, but too late to bring the culprit to justice.