One of the salutary features of this book is Zimmerman’s use of quoted speech, all of it sourced from memoirs and newspaper reports, so the human voice is heard often and to good effect ... Much as I enjoyed the book, I must take issue with the publisher’s description of it as 'brilliantly written.' We regularly find such locutions as, 'three days of schlepping across the countryside' and 'Musso went ballistic.' The serious subject deserves more felicitous language. Zimmerman may not be a stylist, but he is a diligent researcher, and as a longtime resident of China, a shrewd observer of its politics.
The Peking Express... takes mountains of research and boils it down to a digestible telling of the 1923 train derailment ... [Zimmerman] takes on a surprisingly engaging voice as a historical author, cutting between people and scenes like a movie ... Slow moments dot The Peking Express. But the bits that drag are balanced by shocks of emotion cycling through camaraderie, disgust, elation and many more.
Gripping ... Zimmerman weaves in snapshots of a country in turmoil, contrasting walled cities and starving villagers caught in the cross fire between bandits and warlords with thriving metropolises built by foreign interests. Dramatic and meticulously researched, it’s an immersive look at a forgotten chapter of Chinese history.