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August Book Club Meeting, Alternative Meeting

The August book is Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French. Chronicling an incredible unsolved murder, Midnight in Peking captures the aftermath of the brutal killing of a British schoolgirl in January 1937. The mutilated body of Pamela Werner was found at the base of the Fox Tower, which, according to local superstition, is home to the maliciously seductive fox spirits. As British detective Dennis and Chinese detective Han investigate, the mystery only deepens and, in a city on the verge of invasion, rumor and superstition run rampant. Based on seven years of research by historian and China expert Paul French, this true-crime thriller presents readers with a rare and unique portrait of the last days of colonial Peking.


In the past, people have frequently been disappointed because they had read the book but "LIFE" interrupted their plans to attend the Thursday night discussion. For August we will offer 2 discussions on the book: 1 discussion at the normal time on Thursday, August 15 and 1 discussion on Saturday, August 17. Choose the date/time that best fits your schedule: attend one or attend both.


Since our discussion is held at the Nordstrom Market Cafe, I plan on enjoying breakfast during our discussion. Eating or drinking is optional but I certainly plan on enjoying something to eat and drink during our discussion. The Nordstrom Market Cafe is located on the second floor of Norstroms in the Columbia Mall.




January, 1937: Peking is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, lavish cocktail bars and opium dens, warlords and corruption, rumors and superstition – and the clock is ticking down on all of it.


In the exclusive Legation Quarter, the foreign residents wait nervously for the ax to fall. Japanese troops have already occupied Manchuria and are poised to advance south. 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.


Each day brings a ratcheting up of tension for Chinese and foreigners alike inside the ancient city walls. On one of those walls, not far from the nefarious Badlands, is a massive watchtower – haunted, so the locals believe, 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 Pamela Werner, the daughter of a former British consul to China, 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, the killing of Pamela transfixes Peking.



Seventy-five years after these events, Paul French finally gives the case the resolution it was denied at the time. Midnight in Peking is the true story of a murder that will make you hold your loved ones close, and also a sweepingly evocative account of the end of an era.


Book Availability at the Howard Count Public Library


Midnight in Peking is available for checkout at the Howard County Public Library. The Howard County Public Library has:


(13) Copies of the book.


This is a very popular book so make sure that you request this book from the Library early.


Howard County Library Central Branch


10375 Little Patuxent Pkwy

Columbia, MD 21044



Branch Hours

Mon. - Thurs. 10 am - 9 pm

Fri. - Sat. 10 am - 6 pm

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  • Wayne M.

    This was just an excellent discussion. I really enjoyed hearing everyone's thoughts about our book.

    August 17, 2013

  • daffidol

    What a nice group of people . Nordstroms is a great meeting place because of the atmosphere being laid back and the variety to the menu.

    August 17, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    Here is another question to think about and discuss at our meeting:

    Was ETC Werner a difficult man? Does your impression of him change as you learn more about his past and more about the role he played in solving the murder of his daughter? By the end of the book, can we say that Werner is a hero?

    August 13, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    Wow, I can't believe how quickly time flies. Our book club meeting is about a week away. As I'm reading "Midnight in Peking", here is one question that I'll be thinking about. Let's discuss this when we meet:

    Pamela Werner is quickly revealed to be both a plain schoolgirl in Tientsin and a glamorous young lady in Peking. To what extent were there two Pamelas? Was Pamela really living two separate lives? Does the evidence suggest that she was simply changing her behavior slightly depending on her company, presenting different sides of herself to different people?

    August 8, 2013

  • Mary b.

    Will be on vacation -- see people in September! It was grat meeting people. :-)

    August 5, 2013

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