Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Midnight in Peking by Paul French, published by Penguin Books

3 of 5 stars

Midnight in Peking has all the attributes of a great noir story including it is a true crime: a young woman is brutally murdered, her body hacked sadistically; an exotic time and locale, Peking, 1937 as the the world slides into war; racial prejudice between the Chinese and Anglos; and a father who will not let the murder of his daughter go unpunished.

From his research into the facts and times of the case Paul French brings great detail to the horrific story of Pamela Werner's death. He does an excellent job of drawing the Chinese and English detectives, the principal suspects, the environment of Peking and the overlaying bureaucracy permeating the place and times.

I found two explanations missing in the story which made it soft to me: Why did the Chinese Detective Han proceed as he did and why did the English authorities follow the path they did? Mr. French implies that Colonel Han was probably motivated by graft and the English motivated by an attempt to save face. These are probably correct assumptions but I wanted to see more definitive evidence. These two points create the salient “Why” question that we need to have answered.

If you have a chance read the book and see if you don't agree that it falls a little short of being a stand out crime novel.


George W. Parker

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