The book: Judge Dee is passing through a town administered by his friend Ko in the year 670, and is asked to celebrate the Autumn Festival. Ko has also invited a famous female poet, who has been accused of murdering her maid; a ranking Academician, a Zen monk, and a famous male poet. Just before the festival a student is murdered, and during the festival a dancer's throat is cut. All this while the Autumn Festival is in progress. So, as usual, our Judge has to deal with three different mysteries. But are they really three separate cases? And what is the Fox Magic some of the town's inhabitants are mentioning?
The writer: Robert van Gulik was an Orientalist and diplomat; when this book was published (1968) he had died, but while he was writing it, in 1967 he was the Netherlands Ambassador to Japan. His wife, Shui Shifang, was the daughter of a former Imperial Mandarin. He wrote the Judge Dee stories (based on the historical Dee Jen-djieh, 630-700) because he felt that there was not enough Eastern detective fiction; and also to amuse himself!
My opinion: Judge Dee books are an acquired taste: there is a lot of description, names that (to a Western reader) might appear strange, and a culture most of us don't know much about. But I think they are very atmospheric, the author clearly knows what he is writing about, and the personalities, though not drawn to a very great depth, are engaging. I love these books, and while I miss the Judge's henchmen (they were left behind in Poo-Yang) this is as good as any - which is saying quite something! Recommended for connaisseurs.
on 30 December 2013
Judge Dee is at a function with a group of prominent people, poets and a poetess ( who is accused of murder )
Later on they are called away to a tea merchants house, where a student has been murdered, supposedly by a Fox
Another case is where a dancer at he same function is murdered as well.
A tale of corruption, passion and betrayal.
A cracking good read.
on 7 May 2013
If you want something different in the way of mystery/murder try this author, you will not be disappointed. With its background of ancient China, the judicial set-up, and Judge Dee's particular method of detection it is both a fiction book and ancient Chinese history rolled into one.
on 4 April 2009
Judge Dee is loosely based on an actual historical ancient Chinese figure, wonderfully brought to life by Gulik. As Gulik was an avid sinologist as well as diplomat and writer, he is uniquely poised to present us with every-day life in ancient China. It is this detailed knowledge of Chinese history that permeates his stories and gives them their unique flavour, and also the reason why ever since I first discovered Judge Dee, I have managed to buy all of Gulik's Judge Dee books.
Judge Dee stories are written in a way that resembles traditional Chinese conventions. Therefore, the "detective" (i.e. Judge Dee, in fact a magistrate in ancient China), deals with three different crimes in any book. These may somehow connect, but they may just as well be completely unrelated. Gulig's notes help further immerse the reader in the exotic atmosphere of ancient China.
The book is written in the familiar Gulig way, with the Judge solving these mysteries using his uncanny powers of observation and deduction, much like a modern sleuth would. However, adding to the mix Gulig's effortlessly convincing representation of ancient China and his easily-read prose, makes this another great Judge Dee book.
Highly recommended to anyone, whether a Judge Dee novice or a fan.