It is a bone-chilling January morning in Peking, the deserted Fox Tower's spirits howl one last time before the rising sun makes an appearance. The Tartar wall is silent.
On the other side of the wall, the exclusive expatriate neighbourhood, the Legation Quarter, sleeps soundly. The Badlands, just across the ditch on the edge of the Legation Quarter seethes from dusk till dawn but this morning it is still; as still as the mutilated body of young 17-year-old Pamela Werner that was about to be discovered by a local out on his habitual morning walk.
Behind the bloodied face of the 'girl with the golden hair', is a story so shocking that the British expatriate community go to great lengths to prevent the truth from escaping their close-knit membrane of lavish cocktail bars and seemingly bottomless pits of money.
As the Japanese advance and occupy 1930s China, the country waits nervously for the axe to fall. Japanese troops already occupy Manchuria and are poised to advance south into Peking, the Chinese capital. Word has it that Chiang Kai-shek and his shaky government, long since fled to Nanking, are ready to cut a deal with Tokyo and leave Peking to its fate.
The Japanese invasion takes its toll on the investigation lead by Inspector Han and DCI Dennis, when the Chinese and British authorities decide there isn't enough evidence to keep the case open despite pleas from Pamela's distressed father, ETC Werner.
As the author of the novel, Paul French, discovers the unsolved case of Pamela's brutal murder, he stumbles upon a private investigation carried out by Werner, which was the defining moment for French to envisage writing the case up as a novel with the aim to do the victim some justice despite the years gone by.
Everything surrounding the investigation is full of doubt backed by corruption that is so far-gone that it is hard to imagine. Paul French's investigation into the case reveals horrors so shocking that it provides a real brutal eye-opener on the extent of what goes go on behind closed doors in 1930s China and what could potentially go on in our own present-day political backyard.
The murder mystery that unravels in Midnight in Peking, makes it an entertaining read. The fact that it is based on a true story makes the story all the more real, and the vivid details of the destination that the author has included in setting the scene and throughout the novel gives the story an educational edge about Peking and its traditions, customs, buildings and its people; revealing the dark side to a city, a side that few tourists will stumble across.
Average price: £12.99