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Judge Dee at Work: Eight Chinese Detective Stories (Judge Dee Mysteries) Paperback – April 15, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
Book 15 of 17 in the Judge Dee Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Judge Dee belongs in that select group of fictional detectives headed by the renowned Sherlock Holmes. I assure you it is a compliment not given frivolously.”
(Robert Kirsch Los Angeles Times)

About the Author

Robert van Gulik (1910–67) was a Dutch diplomat and an authority on Chinese history and culture. His many works include sixteen Judge Dee mysteries, a study of the gibbon in China, and two books on the Chinese lute.

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Product Details

  • Series: Judge Dee Mysteries
  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (April 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226848663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226848662
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first became aware of the Judge Dee stories after reading the short story "He Came with the Rain" in a historical mystery collection. I loved the story so much that I promptly went to Amazon.com to find more Judge Dee novels and stories. This collection of eight short stories is particularly interesting as it covers about 20 years in Judge Dee's career through several of his postings. The stories are extremely interesting, both for the wealth of historical detail as well as the actual mystery content. Judge Dee as a District Magistrate is the leading civilian authority but I found stories such as "The Red Tape Murder" particularly interesting when he clashes with military authorities. This gives Dr. Van Gulik the opportunity to introduce snippets about ancient Chinese history, particularly about the clashes with Korea and the Tartar offenses on China's Western borders. This is a period of Chinese history where very little is known - almost a sort of Chinese Dark Ages - so it is wonderful to learn more about that time, also about the social customs of the era, which I found surprisingly modern, with the exception of the accepted practice of polygamy! If you are interested in historical mystery fiction, I would highly recommend the series. Also try the Sister Fidelma series about a mystery solving nun in Dark Ages Ireland - it is equally atmospheric!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dutch diplomat Robert van Gulik wrote the Judge Dee mysteries (in English!) to introduce the West to the Chinese version of the mystery story, which arose centuries before the English detective story. Judge Dee is an actual historical person, a magistrate of the seventh century during the T'ang dynasty, who was renown in China for his ability to solve crimes. In Judge Dee at Work, van Gulik presents us with eight short stories each of a single case (the novels, in the Chinese tradition, involve 3 intertwined cases) that take place throughout the judge's long career (magistrates were usually moved to a new post every three years). A table at the back of the book, places each case and all the novels within the timeline of Judge Dee's life.

I have read about half the novels and this book of short stories, and I have enjoyed them all. Early on, Judge Dee employs three different men to be his lieutenants, and they do much of the legwork for him. However, Dee is also very hands-on, going to the crime scenes and sometimes even going about in disguise. In some of the short stories here, he solves the mystery on his own. van Gulik has created a good detective in Dee; he is very, very smart, fair, compassionate to victims and stern with criminals. The cases are varied and interesting, and difficult to solve. I especially like the setting of ancient China. van Gulik really seems to know the era he is writing about, and he brings it alive through the actions and dialog of the story. There is no exposition here. If we need to know the differences of Taoism to Buddhism, we find out through a conversation of Dee with a monk or other character. That really makes the stories glide along.
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Format: Paperback
The wonderful thing about these stories is the sense of time and place which comes through in all of them. We find ourselves easily transported to seventh century China, and the world of a highly organised empire, with its representative in the various cities which serve as venues for the stories, the Magistrate, in the person of Judge Dee.
Robert Van Gulick's picture of Chinese life, crafted from his own extensive study of China, both underpins and overlays these elegant detective stories. Those inhabiting these stories are truly the inhabitants of the places: walking through the streets, eating at the restaurants, working in the Tribunal, and interacting with all classes of their highly stratified society.
The characters are well developed, from Judge Dee himself to his various colourful assistants and lieutenants, who do most (but not all) of the Tribunal's leg work. Criminals, victims, witnesses, and others along the way complete the fascinating tableaux.
There are references to the various Judge Dee novels at the beginning of each story providing a context within the magistrate's career. Numerous line drawings by the author gently illuminate the stories.
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Judge Dee of this series is based off of an actual person, magistrate Dee Jen-djieh, from the Tang Dynasty of China. The author, Robert Van Gulik, based these cases off of actual events from the period. I have been fascinated with the Tang Dynasty since I first read two of China's most famous poets, Li Po and Tu Fu. I was actually looking for historical books on the Tang Dynasty when this book was recommended and I thought why not?

Is it the best crime fiction I have ever read? Well no but it does have some interesting characters and good stories. Plus for me I get a little insight into the Tang Dynasty and how people lived. But if you like historical mysteries then these 8 short stories are just the ticket. Also it was fun trying to solve the murder (yes each story has a murder) but unfortunately sometimes you have to wait until the end of the story have Judge Dee explain it to you as there are not enough clues given throughout the story to solve the case - but again it was fun to try.

The stories follow a similar pattern, a crime is committed and the reader then follows Judge Dee and his assistants as they discover how it was done and by whom. This is light and pleasurable reading. You will not be held in breathtaking suspense, but you will find yourself listening in on intriguing conversations.

This was my first read of a Judge Dee book but I plan on reading others.
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