In January 1937, the mutilated – no, butchered – body of Pamela Werner, a pretty, somewhat naive girl from Britain, was found in Peking, not far from the ice rink where she had been skating and the home she shared with her adoptive father. He, E T C Werner, a British expat, spent much of his life accusing at least three foreign men resident in Peking – two Americans (a dentist and a retired marine) and an Italian doctor – of raping and murdering her. It was a shattering scandal in China, where British and Chinese police investigated the circumstances of her death and the local papers made a meal of the horror. The murder has been reinvestigated several times over the years, and not long ago a widely read book, Midnight in Peking (which I reviewed in these pages in 2012), concluded that one of Werner’s suspects was indeed the murderer.
Now along comes Graeme Sheppard, a retired British policeman of long experience. He heard about the Werner case, found the earlier accounts unconvincing and for three years applied his investigative skills to the sources, documentary and otherwise.