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The Chinese Nail Murders (Judge Dee Mysteries) Paperback – November 15, 1977

ISBN-13: 000-0226848639 ISBN-10: 0226848639 Edition: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS 1977 EDITION
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Product Details

  • Series: Judge Dee Mysteries
  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS 1977 EDITION edition (November 15, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226848639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226848631
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,383,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Limsk on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Written close to 40 years ago (first published in 1961), this book is part of Van Gulik's Judge Dee series which chronicles the cases investigated by the famous magistrate of classical Chinese detective stories.
A staple of the Judge Dee stories are the multi-layered plot and accurate historical details of ancient Chinese culture and practices and this book does not disappoint in both areas. Unique and superbly readable, this series deserves a place on the shelf of every mystery fan. One small note: This new version seems to have omitted the chinese-style illustrations found in the original printing - probably due to the (very low-key) nudity that the publisher found offensive.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Song on December 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have read all of Van Gulik's murder mysteries and this is has to be my favorite. The characters are intriguing and some sinister. The end is satisfying and bittersweet, challenging integrity vs justice. I would, however, recommend you read the others first (chronological is good, Chinese Gold Murders is first) to get to know the main characters although this book can stand on on its own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neal J. Pollock VINE VOICE on February 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
Dutch diplomat and sinologist Robert Hans van Gulik (1910-67) apparently wrote 16 fiction and 1 translation of the exploits of historical Judge Dee (630-700). He includes a short "Postcript" at the end of almost all them--which you might read first--especially if you haven't read any of them before. But there are two in this book as well as a short Preface. He also includes several woodcut type drawings/maps which IMHO greatly enhance these volumes and a "Dramatis Personae" list--especially valuable since its divided up by the case (most of these books involve simultaneous/multiple cases).

This particular book's 2nd Postscript describes van Gulik's original Judge Dee series. It's the 4th fictional one written but 5th chronologically in the series. Apparently, he had meant to end the series here (with Dee's appointment to the Metropolitan in the Capital) but later added other ones--with names other than "The Chinese ____Murders. In this book he meets two very different women, one who tries to destroy him and the other who saves him. All four of his lieutenants participate as well; they add some earthiness and comedy to the tales. As usual, the 3 cases are intriguing and the ending tidies them up nicely--and leaves the reader wondering why he/she didn't figure it out more of it! Strangely, however, the ending is a bit sad as a very admirable, in many ways, and certainly likeable person dies. The Judge is obviously affected by this. The plot here is quite intricate and IMHO extremely clever--van Gulik has quite an imagination! However, I might point out that several of the themes (such as the murder method in the last case) also appear in later volumes in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miss Ivonne on May 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
Robert van Gulik's Judge novels so reward the reader that it's nearly impossible to pick a favorite; however, I think that The Chinese Nail Murders may be my favorite so far.

In The Chinese Nail Murders, Judge Dee presides at the last magisterial post of his career before being promoted to the capital. That post, Pei-chow, is a bitterly frigid bastion on the untamed northern frontier of the Chinese Empire. In the novel's first chapter, Judge Dee hears the complaint from two brothers that their sister has been beheaded and murdered by her husband, a curios merchant. Not to spoil the plot, let's just say the case isn't nearly as simple as that. All Judge Dee mysteries are supposed to consist of three cases, but this one actually includes four: two more unrelated murders -- that of a cotton merchant and a boxer -- and the case of a missing fiancée with some blackmail thrown in for good measure, although the crimes are intertwined. Near the end of the novel, Judge Dee's own life becomes endangered and yet another, previously unknown crime comes to light. With so many subplots crissing and crossing, The Chinese Nail Murders gets quite suspenseful -- especially the last 50 pages!

The ancient Chinese game of Seven Board plays a recurring role in the novel. In one of the cases, it even provides the solution to one of the murders.

In a rare move by author Robert van Gulik, he casts The Chinese Nail Murders, the sixth book in the Judge Dee mystery series, as a story told about Judge Dee's exploits during the 7th century T'ang Dynasty to one brother by another, the latter the magistrate of the same district as Dee, centuries later during the Ming Dynasty. That element, with some supernatural overtones, doesn't add anything to the main storyline.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miz Ellen VINE VOICE on February 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Although this is possibly the best of the Judge Dee series and it will stand on its own, one will appreciate how different it is and how much it stands out by reading the other "magistrate at work" books such as THE CHINESE GOLD MURDERS (recommended to read first as it covers Dee's first posting) and THE CHINESE LAKE MURDERS or THE CHINESE BELL MURDERS.

The other books will show Judge Dee as the rational crime solver, administering his district sternly but always for the good of his people. In this book, Dee risks his career to pursue an evil woman. He feels sure she has murdered her husband and also her lover, but she has covered her tracks with great cunning.

This story shows Dee's human side. He is greatly attracted to a woman who is not his wife. Mrs. Kuo is the beautiful wife of the local pharmacist, a hunchback. Dee is struck by how devoted the couple is to one another and how kind they are. The man serves as coroner to the local tribunal but it is the wife who gives the judge the greatest assistance in this, the most baffling of Judge Dee's cases.

A sweet but sharp melancholy pervades the atmosphere of this riveting mystery. As always, a "cast list" is provided to help a reader with the Chinese names and the author's illustrations and historical notes can convince readers that they are enjoying an authentic Chinese mystery tale! (In other words, you can pretend you are studying...)
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