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Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

The Chinese Lake Murders (Judge Dee Mysteries) - Robert van Gulik

The Chinese Lake Murders (Judge Dee Mysteries)

Author: Robert van Gulik
Book title: The Chinese Lake Murders (Judge Dee Mysteries)
ISBN: 0226848655
ISBN13: 978-0226848655
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; F First Mass Market Edition Used edition (August 15, 1979)
Language: English
Category: Mystery
Rating: 4.1/5
Votes: 107
Pages: 224 pages
More formats: lrf azw txt docx

The Chinese Lake Murders describes how Judge Dee solves three difficult cases in A.D. 666, shortly after he has been appointed magistrate of Han-yuan."[Robert van Gulik] deftly interweaves three criminal cases involving exotic yet universally recognizable characters, then has his Judge Dee provide a surprising yet most plausible solution."—New York Times Book Review
Reviews: (7)
Xava
Judge Dee's second official posting as a regional magistrate is in Han-Yuan, a town that makes him uneasy. There are no serous cases before the Tribunal. The people see the magistrate as an outsider. They prefer to solve their own problems and administer justice among themselves.

And then there's the ominous lake. Strange stories are told about it involving the ghosts of drowned people. And dangerous creatures are said to live in its dark waters...

A beautiful dancing girl is murdered at a banquet given in honor of Dee on a flower boat, her body cast into the lake. Suddenly the judge has other cases too. From a sleepy town, Han-Yuan has turned into a center of crime and misfortune. And things are even worse than they appear!

There's lots of excitement in this book - abductions, fights, excursions into the underworld, erotic dances, tumultuous love affairs. I found the list of characters in the front very useful, because there were so many characters, with complex interrelations.

I'd advise reading first The Chinese Gold Murders and The Lacquer Screen before The Chinese Lake Murders. That way you'll be reading Dee's adventures in chronological order, and you'll get the backstories on important characters.

This University of Chicago edition has the benefit of a charming preface by Van Guilik and an informative introduction by an eminent Asian history scholar.
Androwyn
Another very good Judge Dee novel. Once more we are immersed in China's Tang Dynasty, culture and of course crime. As always, Robert Van Gulik did a splendid job with this novel.
Haracetys
These books are so much fun. And van Gulik really knows his history.
hardy
Great price, quick service
CopamHuk
Good read
Felolv
As many readers already know, Judge Dee was a real magistrate who lived in ancient China from 630 A.D. to 700 A.D. and is also the central detective in a large series of crime novels and short fiction by Dutch diplomat-author Robert Van Gulik (1910-1967). This book, THE CHINESE LAKE MURDERS (1960), is the fourth in the series of mystery books which he began after translating and publishing CELEBRATED CASES OF JUDGE DEE (DEE GOONG AN).

Once more Judge Dee is in a different city as its new magistrate and is faced with three mysteries almost simultaneously. This book is notable for two wonderfully conceived passages that are also wonderfully written. In the first, during the book's opening pages, the reader is confronted with the peculiar words of a government official who seems to be dying while having a sort of fever dream in which he feels great shame despite having recently achieved a great success; walking at night along the shore of the Chinese lake in this book's title, he encounters a beautiful woman and has a truly weird, inexplicable experience with her. This passage, which seems designed to set the mood for the whole novel, becomes no clearer to readers even if they re-read it after completing the book. The second passage of amazing writing occurs a short while later and is an awesome description of a young courtesan dancing on a large boat that Judge Dee and the novel's other main characters are aboard.

The first mystery involves the murder of this dancer (who seems to resemble the woman in the opening fever dream). Solving it is especially important to Judge Dee, since she had just recently confided to him that she had vitally important information that she needed to provide him. Shortly thereafter, a young bride seems to have died mysteriously on her wedding night, and her young husband seems to have disappeared from their locked bedroom. And then one of the suspects seems to have been mysteriously kidnapped and taken far from the city ... and a mysterious "chess" puzzle seems to be somehow involved ... and, as some of the mysteries begin to unravel, some of them are turning out to be entwined with each other in a variety of ways. And PERHAPS this small city beside a lake (that supposedly has supernatural beings in it) is the center for a massive nation-wide conspiracy that may topple the entire government of China ... unless Judge Dee and his team of assistants can get to the bottom of things in time!

Several enjoyable but rather implausible James Bond-like "adventures" ensue, some involving Dee's helpers and one involving a very brave, resourceful young woman, and finally, at almost the last instant, Judge Dee unmasks the chief villain (whom most readers would probably not have suspected). Then, in the year 666 A.D., Judge Dee does an amazing pre-Freudian Psychoanalysis of the villain, and all is again right with China, for the time being.

Basically this book suffers from a common flaw: it has a quality-control problem. Some parts of it are excellent, some parts are rather hokey and full of coincidences but still enjoyable, and some parts are ridiculous. Weighing these together, in my judgment, this book deserves a solid grade of "B".

POSTSCRIPT: The game that Van Gulik calls "chess" in this book seems to be either the same as or akin to the board game now called "Go," an excellent, challenging game of strategy involving the capture of territory.
Voodoogore
As many readers already know, Judge Dee was a real magistrate who lived in ancient China from 630 A.D. to 700 A.D. and is also the central detective in a large series of crime novels and short fiction by Dutch diplomat-author Robert Van Gulik (1910-1967). This book, THE CHINESE LAKE MURDERS (1960), is the fourth in the series of mystery books which he began after translating and publishing CELEBRATED CASES OF JUDGE DEE (DEE GOONG AN).

Once more Judge Dee is in a different city as its new magistrate and is faced with three mysteries almost simultaneously. This book is notable for two wonderfully conceived passages that are also wonderfully written. In the first, during the book's opening pages, the reader is confronted with the peculiar words of a government official who seems to be dying while having a sort of fever dream in which he feels great shame despite having recently achieved a great success; walking at night along the shore of the Chinese lake in this book's title, he encounters a beautiful woman and has a truly weird, inexplicable experience with her. This passage, which seems designed to set the mood for the whole novel, becomes no clearer to readers even if they re-read it after completing the book. The second passage of amazing writing occurs a short while later and is an awesome description of a young courtesan dancing on a large boat that Judge Dee and the novel's other main characters are aboard.

The first mystery involves the murder of this dancer (who seems to resemble the woman in the opening fever dream). Solving it is especially important to Judge Dee, since she had just recently confided to him that she had vitally important information that she needed to provide him. Shortly thereafter, a young bride seems to have died mysteriously on her wedding night, and her young husband seems to have disappeared from their locked bedroom. And then one of the suspects seems to have been mysteriously kidnapped and taken far from the city ... and a mysterious "chess" puzzle seems to be somehow involved ... and, as some of the mysteries begin to unravel, some of them are turning out to be entwined with each other in a variety of ways. And PERHAPS this small city beside a lake (that supposedly has supernatural beings in it) is the center for a massive nation-wide conspiracy that may topple the entire government of China ... unless Judge Dee and his team of assistants can get to the bottom of things in time!

Several enjoyable but rather implausible James Bond-like "adventures" ensue, some involving Dee's helpers and one involving a very brave, resourceful young woman, and finally, at almost the last instant, Judge Dee unmasks the chief villain (whom most readers would probably not have suspected). Then, in the year 666 A.D., Judge Dee does an amazing pre-Freudian Psychoanalysis of the villain, and all is again right with China, for the time being.

Basically this book suffers from a common flaw: it has a quality-control problem. Some parts of it are excellent, some parts are rather hokey and full of coincidences but still enjoyable, and some parts are ridiculous. Weighing these together, in my judgment, this book deserves a solid grade of "B".

POSTSCRIPT: The game that Van Gulik calls "chess" in this book seems to be either the same as or akin to the board game now called "Go," an excellent, challenging game of strategy involving the capture of territory.
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