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The Chinese Nail Murders (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #15)

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  733 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
A.D. 676

In the fifth installment of Robert Van Gulik's ancient Chinese mystery series based on historical court records, detective Judge Dee is appointed to the magistrate of Pei-chow - a distant frontier district in the barren north of the ancient Chinese Empire. It is here that he is faced with three strange and disturbing crimes: the theft of precious jewels, the disapp
Paperback, 220 pages
Published November 15th 1977 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1961)
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A Serendipitous Discovery

June 29, 2011: I move to New York City.

Early July: I hear about a new Tsui Hark film, "Detective Dee," and try to attend a screening, only to find out that it's part of a film festival that has long since sold out. Still, my curiosity is piqued about a martial artist investigator.

Days later: I peruse a table of second-hand books near my apartment and pick out a book called "The Chinese Gold Murders." The description on the back intrigues me, and I think, "Hell, one dolla
Ivonne Rovira
May 21, 2013 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ivonne by: any self-respecting mystery lover
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 s
Aug 06, 2009 Terence rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries-noir
I want to give this book 3+ stars if only because we finally get a glimpse at the personal cost of Dee's devotion to Confucianism when he discovers that a woman who he's falling in love with murdered her first husband (in her defense: he was abusive) but the Law and propriety demand that she pay the price.
Nov 24, 2008 R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
The novels are illustrated with plates drawn by the author in the Chinese style. Van Gulik has found a reason to include at least one top-heavy, nude woman in each mystery. Which he illustrates. In the Chinese style. The Chinese Nail Murders were alluded to in "The Night of the Tiger" in Monkey and the Tiger. Alluded to as having been the case which knocked Dee for a loop. Took the wind out of his sails. It was his Waterloo. His personal Waterloo. Every detective gets run through the emotional w ...more
Kathy Chung
Feb 10, 2014 Kathy Chung rated it really liked it
of all the Judge Dee books that I have read so far, this has been a most heart wrenching story.

I felt so much hopelessness when I read this book.

the case of the missing girl and death of Mrs Pan were okay.

However when it comes to the case of Sargent Hoong, it felt like a stab in my heart. it was just so not worth it.

I am disappointed at the Case of Mrs Loo as the plot was very similar to the plot of a previous book that I read. was it "the poisoned bride and others mysteries"?

it was sad abou
Heather Lewis
Sep 27, 2014 Heather Lewis rated it it was ok
I appreciated that the setting was based in seventh century China and that it focused on a culture I'm not too familiar with but other than those two factors nothing about the book stood out or made it worth reading. I only finished reading the book so I wouldn't have to put it in the 'come back to and read' pile. I found the characters to be one dimensional and the plots/ themes to overlap themselves too much. As a mystery novel lover, I would not recommend this book to any other fanatic of mys ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 08, 2010 Madeline rated it liked it
One of my friends, seeing that I'm in the middle of a mystery novel spree, lent me this book that she'd read for a Chinese history class last year. It's interesting for a lot of reasons, which I will list here:

-The stories are based on real Chinese police cases, but the translator van Gulik (a Dutch diplomat) decided that they were too boring and gave them the CSI treatment to spice them up. This means comically inept deputies, three illustrations featuring topless women being abused in some way
Jul 10, 2016 Lena rated it really liked it
Сначала стиль показался суховат, но в конце господин Гулик объяснил, что он придерживался китайского стиля написания, где нужно "сказать как можно больше как можно меньшим к-вом слов". Но мне больше понравился не сюжет, а китайские декорации, которые придают книге ее прелесть. Чтобы влюбиться в Китай --- самое то!
Aug 08, 2015 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very smoothly-written (translated from the original Dutch if I am not mistaken) and engaging mystery. I especially liked the ancient Chinese setting and van Gulik's portrayal of the role of culture and public opinion in the legal system of the time.
Jenna Laiche
Feb 22, 2016 Jenna Laiche rated it it was amazing
I had to read this book for a class I took in college. I was wrapped up in the whole story and completely devastated when the book ended. If you like Agatha Christie and other mystery writers, you will love this book!
Very easy read and a vivid view of Chinese society around 7th century. One thing never changed, though, never underestimate a woman's capability (especially the scorned ones).
Apr 24, 2012 Mel rated it it was amazing
This may be my new favourite Judge Dee book. Unlike the others he actually seemed to get involved in the case, staking his reputation on what he thought had happened. He appeared much more human and much more sympathetic. There was also an unexpected death which surprised me a great deal. The mystery was more normal, not too shocking, though I will never look at snowmen the same again. I do love the Judge Dee novels, while ahistorical in that they are supposedly set in the Tang dynasty but are w ...more
Dark Chocolate
Mar 28, 2014 Dark Chocolate rated it it was amazing
Amazing as always! All books from the Judge Di's series are greatly written with lots of turns of events!
Jul 25, 2014 Roosi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, crime
The best from van Gulik.
Dec 30, 2012 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half was a bit dry, but the second half quickly became exciting and rather disturbing at parts. The books is written in the style of old Chinese murder mysteries telling stories about the historical Judge Dee. In medieval China, the judge was a mix of detective, judge, and governor, and Judge Dee was particularly clever and well-known. Completely different from anything I have ever read.
Meita Supardi
Mar 10, 2013 Meita Supardi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love it! How genius of Van Gulik to make an old Chinese crime case be solved in a modern CSI way. And I love Judge Dee character, I wish there are still judges like him in this terrible world. When he actually wanted to resign, I literally held my breath. However coincident the case was solved, I felt relief that he got promoted instead :)
Sep 05, 2016 Joni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mainiolle, rikkaasta kiinalaisesta dekkariperinteestä ammentavalle tarinalle 4 tähteä. Viides tähti kirjailijan loppusanoista, joissa hän mm. kertoo kirjasarjan synnystä ja arvostuksestaan kiinalaista kulttuuria kohtaan.
Feb 12, 2008 Keisuke rated it really liked it
Again, this is a book written by Robert van Gulik. He is so amazing. This one is a sort of mystery story. Very interesting. The story is based on an old Chinese story. He added modern flavor to it. It can be a Hollywood movie.
Mar 19, 2015 Helen rated it liked it
A light read. Having read several of his Judge Dee books in the past, I find them interesting as they are set in Imperial China (roughly 630-700). In mysteries of this type, the setting is as interesting as the plot.
Jul 03, 2013 Erik rated it really liked it
Another great entry in the Judge Dee series. Here Dee solves the mysteries of a headless corpse, a murdered martial-arts expert, and gets into a tough spot with a cold case that puts him on the chopping block.
Aug 08, 2013 Val rated it liked it
It was very interesting and fascinating learning about a very different culture. A little challenging keeping track of all the Chinese names. Enjoyed the mystery solving aspects too.
Lisa Kucharski
Jul 30, 2011 Lisa Kucharski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story filled with gruesome murders and tragedies that hit close to home for Judge Dee.

Takes place in the winter time and one can feel how hard the climate is land.
Jul 09, 2013 Raphaelia rated it really liked it
I had to read this for my Chinese History class but it was a really good read. I loved it and the ending of it made me gasp and feel bad for one of the characters.
Apr 15, 2008 Sarah added it
Entertaining, a bit gruesome, and very interesting, these are enjoyable mysteries that give a bit of insight into Chinese culture and history.
Aug 29, 2015 Janice rated it really liked it
Love his characters and way of writing that gives you a look inside the life of the Chinese many centuries ago.
Apr 10, 2015 Tim rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Written by a Dutchman living in China, post WWII. Fun, short murder mysteries that shed light on the culture of China.
Apr 03, 2014 Antonis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-possession
Εξαιρετικό. Αρχαία Κίνα, λεπτεπίλεπτη νοητική κατασκευή, καταιγιστική δράση, ψυχολογική ανάλυση επαγγελματία.
Sep 21, 2015 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Complex, intriguing, educational and fascinating. Well worth reading.
Jul 12, 2014 Roshni rated it liked it
Another entertaining Judge Dee that has a few dark twists.
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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 Chinese Bell Murders
  • The Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl

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