January, 1937: Peking is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, lavish cocktail bars and opium dens, warlords and corruption, rumours and superstition – and the clock is ticking down on all of it.
In the exclusive Legation Quarter, the foreigners are jumpy. Japanese troops are poised to attack, and word has it the Chinese government is about to cut a deal with Tokyo, leaving Peking to its fate. Fear reigns inside the ancient city walls, on one of which, not far from the nefarious Badlands, is a massive watchtower. Locals believe it to be haunted by fox spirits that prey upon innocent mortals.
Then one bitterly cold night, the body of an innocent mortal is dumped there. It belongs to the daughter of a former British consul, and when the details of her death become known, people find it hard to credit that any human could treat another in such a fashion. Even as the Japanese noose on the city tightens, this bizarre murder transfixes the people of Peking.
Seventy-five years after these events, Paul French finally gives the case the resolution it was denied, in a story that will make you hold your loves ones close ...
'Unputdownable ... French's re-creation of the police investigation will have you enthralled.' Sydney Morning Herald
'A brilliantly evocative book.' The Sunday Age
Historian French (Through the Looking Glass: China's Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao) unravels a long-forgotten 1937 murder in this fascinating look at Peking (now Beijing) on the brink of Japanese occupation. The severely mutilated body of 19-year-old Pamela Werner the adopted daughter of noted Sinologist and longtime Peking resident Edward Werner was discovered, with many of her organs removed, near the border between the Badlands, a warren of alleyways full of brothels and opium dens, and the Legation Quarter, where Peking's foreign set resided in luxury. A case immediately fraught with tension was made even trickier when the local detective, Col. Han Shih-ching, was made to work alongside Scotland Yard trained Richard Dennis, based in Tientsin. The investigation soon stalled: the actual scene of Pamela's murder could not be found, and leads fizzled out. As China's attention turned to the looming Japanese occupation, the case was deemed "unsolved." French painstakingly reconstructs the crime and depicts the suspects using Werner's own independent research, conducted after authorities refused to reopen his daughter's case. Compelling evidence is coupled with a keen grasp of Chinese history in French's worthy account.