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Midnight in Peking by Paul French []



In 1937 foreigners and native Beijinger’s alike were shocked when the mutilated body of a young woman was found just outside of of Beijing’s Legation Quarter. Clearly, a terrible crime had been committed, but what had happened? The investigation was complicated by the bureaucratic system that made it difficult for law enforcement in the Legation Quarter and in Chinese Beijing to work together and the detectives in charge of the case struggled with a lack of information and communication—and what seemed all too often to be pure obstructionism from above. Paul French’s Midnight in Peking offers a fascinating glimpse of China at beginning of the Second World War, a time when powerful Europeans were leaving China, and many refugees were arriving in Beijing and nearby cities, fleeing from the USSR and Nazi Germany, and from the increasingly hostile and militaristic presence of the Japanese within China.

French’s narrative follows both the official investigations, and the unofficial investigation conducted by the victim’s father. There are some surprising twists along the way, and French takes advantage of them to keep the reader on her toes. An engaging read, but not for the squeamish or those who prefer to read stories in which justice is fulfilled.

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