Midnight in Peking

This book by British writer Paul French tells the story of the mysterious murder of young English woman Pamela Werner in Beijing of the 1930s. It draws most of its dynamics from its historical circumstances; a time when Westerners in Beijing still led privileged albeit doomed lives with the Japanese invasion armies knocking on the door of the city.

Map of the Legation Quarter

Map of the Legation Quarter then...

A book like a time machine

When reading the book you will feel like you are catapulted back in time. Not many books can do that. You will see western men in gray suits with bowler hats, with a pocket watch and an old school mustache. You will see Chinese men with half bald and half pigtailed heads pulling rickshaws for a living. You will start to wonder what Beijing looked like some 80 years before and you will, despite the grueling story, be pulled in by its charm and the charm of the times.

the Legation Quarter today

... and the Legation Quarter today

Visit the website

It is then likely that you will visit the book’s official website which is a great idea. There is a downloadble walking tour on it taking you through the Beijing of the times of Pamela Werner. You best make the trip at night as it will be even scarier than during the day. Visit Armory Factory Hutong close to the main station and have a look at her home, visit the Fox Tower to see where her body was found, visit Chuanban Hutong where the murder was supposed to have taken place. Despite the story taking us into the abysses of what humans are capable of, it will bring you a new appreciation for what is perhaps the greatest city in the world.

Midnight in Peking's book cover

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Useful Chinese words

  • 船板胡同 Chuanban Hutong, the hutong where the murder supposedly took place
  • 东便门 Dongbianmen, the Chinese name for the Fox Tower