Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

Midnight in Peking – Paul French #20booksofsummer

Non-Fiction – True Crime
4*s

Midnight in Peking is an intriguing book which looks at the gruesome murder of Pamela Werner at the same time as the Japanese were poised to invade China.

ETC Werner was Pamela’s adoptive father, a retired Consul who was an academic of Chinese with a particular interest in mythology and language. When his daughter Pamela failed to come home that cold winter’s evening in 1937 he searched for her, sadly her mutilated body was found at the bottom of Fox Tower with her heart and other organs removed.

The book is seriously well researched with many documents examined which gives the reader the feel of the ex-pat community in Peking, and it is telling that Pamela had been ice skating before bicycling home, activities that her peers living in the UK could easily have been doing. What Paul French evocatively describes is the gated community, Legation Quarter, where most of the ex-pats lived, although not Pamela and her father who lived outside, and then there was the were the ‘Badlands’ where life was a whole lot more tawdry and where the Russians congregated eager to sample its fast food outlets and brothels. Through the whole book you can’t fault the descriptions of the places that were familiar to Pamela.

The book is of course focussed on who killed Pamela and it comes up with a valid scenario based on his combing of the archives and not least the efforts of her father who made it his mission to keep the investigation into his daughter’s death alive. ETC Werner is painted as a complex character and he clearly didn’t set out in life to win friends, indeed quite the opposite so when he bombarded anyone who he thought had power with letters full of his suspicions about the perpetrator with letter after letter. In a link to ETC Werner’s work we also hear about the Chinese superstitions which relate to the spirits that haunt Fox Tower where Pamela’s dismembered body was discovered.

Equally interesting is the history of the creeping invasion of the Japanese through China and the knock on effect that had on the ex-pat community as well as the wider implications for the Chinese. This is a slice of history that was new to me and although my geography is particularly poor this part is explained well enough that I easily followed the time-lines and could visualise the widening of the areas under Japanese control.

This is a non-fiction book although the majority of the book is very readable, however I did get bogged down in the early section of who was who in the ex-pat community in China with its lengthy section on not just who did what now but what they’d done before without any real idea of the part they would play in Pamela’s story. This is a minor criticism of a book that bought a time and place to life long after both had disappeared.

Having read the investigation carried out by the author I felt his theory worked although the fact that the case was never solved seemed to be for people in high places supressing the truth rather than it was never known. The real mystery that remains is ‘who was Pamela Warner?’ because this is a young woman, despite being represented as a school girl she was in her late teens, who was a mass of contradictions.

Midnight in Peking was my eight read of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge 2017

First Published UK: April 2013
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 272
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Challenge

20 Books of Summer 2017! #20booksofsummer

Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2017 and running until 3 September 2017, and once again I’ve decided to join her. My aim this year is to read all twenty books in the allotted time span!!

As I’m competitive I’m signing up for the full twenty. My personal challenge is to read these twenty books from my bookshelf, physical books that I already own and have purchased for myself before today. Funnily enough I have plenty to choose from… a whole 91 in fact!

Because I know that facts in one book tend to lead me to seek out other books in my tangential reading style, I’ve decided to start with a spread of genres and authors for the first ten books – fat books, thin books and books in-between! Book lovers will completely understand the complexity of this choice which has taken many, many hours to hone to just the right mix, especially as I have had to factor in going on holiday and therefore I will have to further reduced  the pile for the trip… I will post the next ten when these are all finished which should be in mid-July, if I’m on schedule!

 

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

The Doctor’s Wife is Dead by Andrew Tierney

Broken Heart by Tim Weaver

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson

Midnight in Peking by Paul French

The Island by Victoria Hislop

Saturday Requiem by Nicci French

Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge

What Remains Behind by Dorothy Fowler

Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill

I will be joining Cathy by tweeting my way through the challenge using the hashtag #20booksofsummer to demonstrate when one of my reads is part of this challenge! Should be easy eh?

As in the previous two years there will be a master page linking the titles to my reviews as they are posted, and of course eventually listing the entire twenty books.

Top of my holiday reads is Reginald Hill, I always read one of his books on holiday, and of course there is The Island which I bought after visiting Spinalonga, Greece’s former leper colony in Crete last summer, Dorothy Koomson is an obvious choice but is In Cold Blood too grim for sunshine and cocktails?

So what do you think of my choices? Where would you start?

I’ve enjoyed looking at everyone else’s choices so far and after all having read the full list of 20, I will need replacements.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (May 15)

Weekly Wrap Up

I know this is one day late this week but as I was part of the Need You Dead blog tour yesterday I decided it was better late than never, especially a I’ve reviewed some stunning books over the last week, and have found some winning looking ones to add to my shelves.

This Week on the Blog

I started my week with the Mystery Blogger Award where I presented you with three facts about me and confirmed that my favourite genre is indeed crime fiction!

My excerpt post was from All The Good Things by Clare Fisher which I hope to read before its publication on 1 June 2017.

My This Week in Books post featured authors Ruth Rendell, Lucy Atkins and Elisabeth Herrmann

My first review of the week was posted on Thursday for Boy A by Jonathan Trigell, an intelligent look at what reintroduction to society might look like if you were locked up for a serious crime as a child.

I then posted my review of a non-fiction reads, an outstandingly good true-crime read. Unusually The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the exploration of a crime is spliced with the author’s memoir, the result is one of a most compelling read.

The third five-star review of the week was for The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins which is a real character led novel with the underlying plot hinging on the publication of a book by historian Olivia Sweetman. A book I have boldly declared will be one of my books of 2017.

My last and final five-star review was a man who now feels like a dear friend, Roy Grace the star of Peter James’ crime fiction series here in his thirteenth outing; Need You Dead.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Play Dead by Angela Marsons, the fourth in an outstanding series featuring Detective Kim Stone as she tackles crime in the Black Country. Gruesomely set on a Body Farm where the scientists learn how a body decomposes in different environments to aid in determining the time of death. The well-drawn characters provide the perfect back-drop to the devilish mystery posed in this novel.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover.



Blurb

The dead don’t tell secrets… unless you listen.

The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …?

Stacking the Shelves

I have been super lucky this week with review copies for my last splurge before I cut back for the summer (haha)

First up I have a copy of Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf, an author who has written some really thought-provoking books and this, her latest is due to be published on 13 July 2017.



Blurb

A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf.

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters – her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora.

Now, two years later, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice? NetGalley

I also have a copy of Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown, another author whose previous novels have impressed me. This book will be published on 27 July 2017.

Blurb

A missing child. A broken mother. A sister who doesn’t remember a thing.

After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before? NetGalley

Lastly I have a much longed for copy of The Child by Fiona Barton; I was a huge fan of The Widow and so I will make sure I read this before publication on 29 July 2017.


Blurb

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.
For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.
And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told. NetGalley

Finally within my Mystery Blogger Award I asked for more crime fiction books based upon real crimes and the lovely and knowledgeable FictionFan recommended Midnight in Peking by Paul French, which was just the sort of thing I was looking for.

Blurb

Peking, 1937:
The teenage daughter of a British consul is brutally slaughtered. The police investigation is botched; as war looms British and Chinese authorities close ranks. A grieving father vows to uncover the truth – alone.

Seventy-five years later, historian Paul French uncovers a stash of forgotten documents revealing the killer’s identity . . .

For those who loved The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil this is a riveting and evocative true crime classic. Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Do share, I’m always on the lookout for a good book!

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books and discarded one as a DNF – I also pruned my TBR of the book that was sent to the charity shop and the one book that hadn’t been removed despite having been read and then I have gained 4. The accountant therefore declares the current total as 185
Physical Books – 108
Kindle Books – 61
NetGalley Books – 16