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A Death in Peking by Graeme Sheppard

Last Updated on 2020/10/31

The brutal murder of Pamela Werner in 1937 in pre-communist Peking horrified the foreigners living in the ancient walled capital, and many others besides.

Related articles: Interview with Graeme Sheppard

The appalling injuries the young British woman suffered were as barbaric as they were mysterious.

Months later, China was engulfed by war with Japan and the macabre crime remained unsolved with the murderer still at large.

A Death in Peking investigates this cold case using primary source material hitherto un-examined.

In recent years, there has been a rekindling of interest in Pamela’s death owing to the publication of Midnight in Peking by Paul French, an account stemming principally from the murder theories of her idiosyncratic adoptive father, E.T.C. Werner, a renowned sinologist and long-time member of the China consular service.

That was how Graeme Sheppard, a retired London police officer with thirty years of experience, first learned of the case.

Reading the book, he immediately saw that the narrative and its conclusions were deeply flawed.

Evidentially, the conclusion didn’t stand up, and, with his professional curiosity aroused, he set about investigating the crime myself.

For three years he painstakingly gathered evidence and eventually turned the case on its head.

Clearly, there was far more to the murder than had ever before been revealed. A Death in Peking is the result.

This book dissects the crime, utilizing a broader range of historical sources – British, Chinese, Canadian, Italian, and American.

The context of Pamela Werner’s death and its investigation are examined.

The many suspects to the murder, including names both old and new, men whose lives intersected with that of the victim, are scrutinized, and their characters and motivations put under the spotlight.

Allegations of a political motive for Pamela’s death are considered using secret correspondence – which Sheppard discovered in the British National Archives – between the enigmatic Sir Edmund Backhouse and the British Embassy.

In this manner, A Death in Peking also illuminates many of the extraordinary lives led by foreigners in China long since vanished.

Who killed Pamela Werner? Is it possible that the solution, the true identity of the murderer, has been overlooked?

Yes, Sheppard reveals that it has.

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