Audiobook Review: Murders Of Old China by Paul French

audiobookAn Audible Original Release

Hello again everyone! What can I talk about this time? I keep on meaning to talk about something more light hearted…but every time I try…something odd or outside of my usual interests grabs my attention.

As you might be able to guess from my introduction this time around, I’m not the usual reader or listener for true crime books. I am a fan of Thomas Grant’s true crime style legal case books – Court Number One being a personal favourite – but they aren’t part of my usual ‘to listen’ pile. I found out about the existence of Murders Of Old China thanks to marketing on Audible’s part but before I review the release let’s discuss the Audible Originals.

The Audible Originals are audio releases that are exclusive to Audible and Amazon and in most cases are at least partially funded by Audible themselves. Examples include a radio drama style adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals, the adaptation of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War Of The Worlds that was my very first review on The Orkney News and an audiobook release of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein narrated by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens which I personally highly recommend and may well be the subject of a review someday.

Murders of Old China audiobookMurders Of Old China is an audiobook which discusses twelve different cases in pre-communist or late period colonial China from 1907 to 1947. Several of these cases take place in Shanghai although we do have some in other locations such as Tai-O – a very rural area isolated from Hong Kong – Tibet and The Gobi Desert. French attempts to interweave the true crime investigation and discussion – including uncovering some documents and pieces of information unknown to the original murder enquiries – with information lost to time.

Much about ‘old’ China has been buried under modern history and this audiobook does a rather enjoyable job of melding and mixing history of China as it was then with the culture of the time. As well as the murders themselves and how that influences the verdicts in those cases where a verdict was handed down. Be it the murder of a rickshaw man in 1908 or a Tibetan monk in 1907 or the case of Gareth Jones ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ in 1935. The complete release is a very gripping audio and I will admit that when I reached the end I felt like I had to track down some other audio releases by French. The release ends with French and his producer discussing Murders of Old China and the author answering some questions regarding his writing and research process and various other interesting queries.

The audiobook is both written and read by Paul French and he does so with enthusiasm. At times it feels more like a discussion with a friend over a dram by the fire. You can tell from his narration he is fascinated by the subject and finds the cases under discussion utterly enthralling. Which makes sense for an ‘Old China Hand.’ An Old China Hand being the name for those foreigners who have significant experience of China – and in the majority of cases – have lived in China for a substantial period of time with the time factor being very important to the moniker. His narration utterly gripped me as I listened and I actively struggled to put the book down. Quite honestly? I hope that future audiobooks by French are also narrated by him as his interest is infectious. If any of my listeners have any interest in China or True Crime as a genre? Then I highly recommend this audiobook.

If you aren’t invested in the genre or history I can’t promise it will grab you like it did me but I still recommend taking a chance on it. When I approached the end I honestly felt quite sad it was over. If that isn’t an endorsement I don’t know what is!

NephriteIn conclusion I hope some of my readers will join me in opening the vaults of China’s murder inquiries, be it the death of a Shanghai gold dealer, the irritating Bertram Lennox Simpson or the Sikh they couldn’t hang. Old China has much left to teach the world and I’m glad I listened. Now…what will I review next?



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