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The Chinese Bell Murders (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #8)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  848 ratings  ·  57 reviews
A.D. 668

Meet Judge Dee, the detective lauded as the "Sherlock Holmes of ancient China" — Fans of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will thrill to this reissue of the first volume in Robert van Gulik's classic Chinese Murders series. The Chinese Bell Murders introduces the great Judge Dee, a magistrate of the city of Poo-yang in ancient China.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published 1989 by Michael Joseph (first published 1958)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,314)
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Henry Avila
All looks calm, in the apparently little, peaceful, beautiful, walled, northern town of Poo-yang, by the Great Canal, as the new magistrate Judge Dee, his three wives, numerous children, four cunning lieutenants, Hoong Liang, Ma Joong, Chiago Tai , Tao Gan, and loyal servants, arrive there. After the usual formal celebrations , meetings, a grand banquet, seeing the leading citizens, taking over from his able predecessor, Judge Feng, only one murder case, active, but that has been solved, already ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Excellent period mystery that draws on the Chinese detective story legacy and diplomat van Gulik's extensive scholarship. Reading this book was like stepping into a time machine and travelling back in time to imperial China, so well realised is van Gulik's portrayal of the era. Judge Dee, a magistrate, is given a new posting and proceeds to clean up the town. Cerebral and often downright inscrutable, he is aided by a cohort of close associates who range from a stalwart sergeant to a former con m ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Feb 24, 2013 Ivonne Rovira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of unusual historical mysteries
Admirers of Robert van Gulik's always delightful Judge Dee mysteries have another treat in store with The Chinese Bell Murders. In this novel, Judge Dee is newly arrived in the city of Poo-Yang, and he begins by re-investigating a case that his predecessor, Judge Feng, could not complete since Feng had had to leave when he was reassigned to a new posting. In that case, an impoverished literary candidate named Wang was on the verge of being executed for the rape and murder of a butcher's daughter ...more
Nancy Oakes
Second in a series featuring the Tang Magistrate Judge Dee, based on a real magistrate during that dynasty. Dee has a series of retainers who assist him in his work. It is the case throughout the series that when Dee comes to a new town, mysteries present themselves for him and his friends to solve. Generally there are several mysteries that seem to be linked together somehow, and I take the utmost in pleasure to watch the crimes unravel.

In his first case, Judge Dee finds himself in the Poo-yan
Oh, this book was great fun. I am unfamiliar with the history of Chinese detective novels (Actually, I was completely unaware China had a history of detective stories at all - Though come to think of it, why not? Every society has crime, and sometimes there are mysteries that need solving.)

I liked that there were 3 crimes solved in the book and that the timelines kind of overlapped. It felt much more realistic. In the real world, crimes don't happen one at a time, waiting for a magistrate to sol
☆ Carol ☆
I loved van Gulik's elegant prose & the simple illustrations that were with this book. I found the construction of the book's plot a bit hard (there are actually 3 different crimes) but will be prepared for that if I read another book in this series.

One criticism is that it would be very hard for the reader to solve the crime.
This book is an amazing read! The way the plot is intricately woven around dynamic characters ought to be heralded as an example for mystery writers everywhere.
One of the best in the series. Judge Dee and his four assistants, Sergeant Hoong, Chiao Tao, Ma Joong, and Tao Gan, investigate three cases: a 20-year-old feud between two Cantonese families, a suspiciously wealthy Buddhist temple, and the murder of a young girl. Science fiction writers could learn a thing or two from how van Gulik subtly conveys to the reader how the world of ancient China works.
Kathy Chung
yes! I love this story. full of surprising twist and turn if event.

Judge Dee taking over a new district had "inherited" a case of rape and murder from his predecessor.

everything sound simple enough. he just have to impose some harsh punishment to get the prisoner to confess. but Judge Dee found something suspicious and seems to have opened a can of worms.

to make it worse , there was a suspicious Sect that have great influence in the Capital . This sect seems to be commiting crime but Judge Dee
Excellent historical mystery. I couldn't put it down. Plenty of twists and turns and great puzzles solved by the magistrate with the evil-doers getting their just desserts.
Have read 2 Judge Dee mysteries. The Chinese Bell Murders is the first of the series. Have really enjoyed both books!
Janice Stribl
Love the reasoning he uses to solve the crimes and the peek into life in 7th century China. Good character building.
This book, originally published in 1958, is actually set in the China of about the 17th century. Van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat and a well-known authority on Chinese history and culture. He drew his plots, settings, and character-development from Chinese literature--particularly the popular detective novels of the period. The story tells us of the adventures and rulings of Judge Dee in the early days overseeing the tribunal of Poo-yang. When he takes over the tribunal, he finds that there is one ...more
I am especially fond of historical mysteries. So it is a mystery to me that it took so long to read one of van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries set in 17th c. China. A scholar and diplomat, van Gulik based his mysteries on old Chinese detective stories. The postscript gives the reader the basis for the format of the novel as well as the derivation of the three mysteries that Judge Dee solves in the novel. Clever deduction and interesting cultural observations made this a very entertaining read.
Pamela Mclaren
I read this and several of the other Robert van Guilik Judge Dee mysteries several years ago and event today I remember how good they were and so different from the rest of that time mysteries. Perhaps its because its Asia, its a thinking man (i.e., like Sherlock Holmes) and it reflects the time period it is all about. These are not mysteries for everyone but if you like one, you'll want to ready more.
I enjoy a good mystery. I particularly enjoy the various conventions used: the cozy, the eccentric detective, the smarter than thou crime solver. This series is fascinating because it is centered in the Tang Dynasty, and the culture of that time is almost another character.
Aleksandar Nikolov
Ди продължава да си е пич. Много готино законодателство са си измислили китайците , първо колят и бесят после питат (тумбс ъп). Хюлик отново за 200 страници е наблъскал не един или два случая за разрешаване, а цели четири-пети повече т.е нон стоп действие. Нямаше кой знае какви интересни обрати , но поне имаше обратни интереси!
Although the writing is a bit dated in places, the plot is interesting and the historical context fascinating
I liked this really a lot. As much as I hoped; far more than I thought likely. Definitely want to read more.
I'm so glad I found Judge Dee and I never would have if not for the movie adaptation. Judge Dee plus the ancient China setting truly makes this an interesting read.
Ben Renz
Just boring and not for me. Knowing I had to eventually finish it severely bummed me out.
Great Chinese-style detective story, and very convincingly portrays the attitudes of the Chinese in that time period. Of course, this traditional way of thinking irked my feminist sensibilities somewhat, what with all the "women should be subservient to men" undertones and general masochism going on in the book. Provides great insight into Chinese history and culture, while remaining rather entertaining at the same time.
This is one of a series of novels from the 1950s in the style medieval Chinese crime novels, and as such it is a fairly standard police procedural. I am not a big fan of the police procedural but this was quite engaging, fairly entertaining, even if over reliant on the sense of mystical insight of the enigmatic investigator so common in detective writing. I doubt I’ll be rushing to another, but enjoyable.
Lisa Kucharski
Another great story where many mysteries are solved and then tried. The one thing I find interesting is that in the end the scenes where people are tortured or killed for their crimes is presented. According to Gulik, this is typical of many Chinese mysteries, and this as well as handing giving the good guys their due is expected.

Wonderful stories and characters.
One of the first of van Gulik's original Judge Dee novels (after his translation of The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee). A fun read, combining v.G.'s interperetation of an 18th century Chinese version of a police procedural with some remarkable sociological portrayal of old China. Reads better than my description, with some nice tension and good surprises.
Not only were the plots of the three mysteries of this first of the Judge Dee series interesting, but the author's illustrations drawn in the Chinese style were illuminating. I enjoyed this introduction to a detective who is based on an historical character from another culture and period (630-700 CE). I will definitely read more Judge Dee stories.
Judge Dee is a logical magistrate that must solve the mysteries put before him. In Chinese culture, the accused must confess their crimes. Interesting system, and the accused, if guilty , will pay much for their crimes. Judge Dee is a very logical man who uses psychology and evidence to put the accused into a corner, on the way to confession.
Aivan parasta van Gulikia. Kolme kiinalaista rikosmysteeriä samanaikaisesti tuomari Deen ratkottavana, heti alkuun uudessa piirissään. Juonet perustuvat joko satoja vuosia vanhoihin (kiinalaisiin) salapoliisitarinoihin tai ammoisiin tositapahtumiin, mutta pieteetillä modernisoitu nykylukijalle uskottavammiksi.
Joe Rodeck
Has a nice X-Men quality about it. Judge Dee is the leader and brains of the outfit, with his team of three: the big strong guy, the sleight of hand artist, and a good all purpose guy. Lots of mano a mano fights, intrigue and scientific deduction.

Old China is a nice change of pace atmosphere.
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Robert Hans van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat best know for his Judge Dee stories. His first published book, The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, was a translation of an eighteenth-century Chinese murder mystery by an unknown author; he went on to write new mysteries for Judge Dee, a character based on a historical figure from the seventh century. He also wrote academic books, mostly on Chinese history ...more
More about Robert van Gulik...

Other Books in the Series

Judge Dee (Chronological order) (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An)
  • The Chinese Gold Murders
  • The Lacquer Screen
  • Judge Dee at Work: Eight Chinese Detective Stories
  • The Chinese Lake Murders
  • The Monkey and The Tiger
  • The Haunted Monastery
  • The Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl
  • Poets and Murder

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