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The Chinese Lake Murders

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #5)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,255 ratings  ·  82 reviews
A.D. 666

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 Revi
Paperback, 215 pages
Published August 15th 1979 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1960)
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Paul I think u don't have to read the other books as the first ones. I'm reading this book now and I really enjoy it. I think it's not connected with the o…moreI think u don't have to read the other books as the first ones. I'm reading this book now and I really enjoy it. I think it's not connected with the others books with the action and place of action. (less)

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Henry Avila
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the small isolated mountain city of Han-yuan dominated by a large majestic lake and famous for its floating brothels "Flower Boats", Judge Dee is the newly appointed by the exalted Emperor district magistrate. However he is bored nothing has happened during his two tiresome months there, just sixty miles north from the grand Chinese Imperial Capital too...The time... A.D. 666 seems destined to remain mundane , the dark mysterious lake waters holds secrets well though four unlucky people drown ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Robert van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat, linguist (he writes English like a native!), and an expert in China, both modern and ancient. Thank God he also decided to become an author!

The Chinese Lake Murders unfurls with three cases from when Judge Dee was a new magistrate in Han-yuang in A.D. 666. While being feted on a pleasure boat, Judge Dee discovers the body of a murdered courtesan, Almond Blossom. Just moments earlier, the girl had whispered to Judge Dee that a terrible conspiracy was afoot i
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Judge Dee takes up a magistrates post in a village on a lake where he is told that there is no crime. However at a party on the lake thrown in his honour to celebrate his arrival a courtesan is murdered. Dee and his men face their biggest challenge. If you want to be whisked off to Imperial China then this is the series for you.
Vanessa Wu
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Robert Van Gulik is a fascinating man and this novel reflects many of his interests. It combines scholarly attention to detail with a flair for melodrama and the macabre. He was very knowledgeable about ancient China and took a deep interest in Chinese erotic art. This mystery story draws on ancient Chinese detective stories, of which he had made a special study, and is enlivened with many erotic allusions to tease the reader's imagination. There are also a few action sequences featuring clever ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit slow and dry at times but it is interesting to see a mystery form (with some changes for Western tastes) that predates Poe by centuries. Clever and some excitement as well.
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with so many classics, you read this, you have no idea why you read this since it violates every standard of how to write a proper mystery, and yet you can't stop.

I will also say that Robert van Gulik was one of those authors who is at *least* as interesting as his characters.
Apr 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-mystery
Published in 1960, this is another of Robert van Gulik’s detective novels set in Imperial China the 8th century AD, sees Judge Dee investigating three apparently unconnected cases. One involves a beautiful murdered courtesan, one involves the death of a bride of her wedding night, and the third involves the strange financial transactions of an elderly imperial councillor. It soon becomes evident that none of these cases is what it seems, and that the judge has stumbled upon something much larger ...more
Brian R. Mcdonald
Jun 02, 2010 marked it as books-with-go-references
Go references: Little on the game itself, but a diagram of a game position plays a major role in the plot.
Petra Beck
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I have been a bit disappointed by my latest reading material, I dug out some of my old favourites, and the "Judge Dee" stories by Robert van Gulik are certainly in my all-time top books ever.
I am determined to re-read them all, and since I own a number of the paperbacks back from Germany, I am reading them in German. "Der See von Han-Yuan" just happened to be the first one i picked from the stack at random. But don't dispair, friends, you can get them in English, too. I believe there are
Karen GoatKeeper
Judge Dee has been assigned to Han Yung. He wonders why the tribunal has so little to do. That changes when he attends a dinner, gets a cryptic message from a courtesan and finds her dead body floating in the lake a short time later.
Things start getting complicated when a bride dies on her wedding night, is put in a temporary casket and disappears, her body replaced with that of a carpenter. Unrest and insurrections begin around the area with the epicenter seemingly in Han Yung. Are they the beg
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was ok
A well-plotted mystery and an enjoyable light read.

Gulik was a scholar of linguistics, translator of classical texts, and acquainted with the classical Chinese works from which he drew the central character and many plot elements his early mystery novels.

The work is equally parts classical Chinese text and mid-20th century mystery novel. Some of the didacticsm, tropes, and much of the Confucian philosophy of the original texts is dispensed with. Fight scenes and a western mystery structure are a
I think I liked this one even more than the Labirynth one. I wasn't that fond of the entire conspiracy plot and the some aspects of the story arcs stretched the suspension of disbelief a bit too much... but I really liked how they were all intertwined, I really enjoyed the "Go" riddle that was given there and the way everything was solved.

Additionally, I really liked how the Judge's assistant was introduced and all of his assistants received a nice bit of characterization here. Plus of course th
Laurie Dennis
The plot was interesting and I enjoyed the character of Judge Dee. However, I did not like the opening section, which is a strange dream sequence set in the Ming Dynasty that distracted from the actual story (set in the Tang, hundreds of years before the Ming) and is never integrated into the conclusion. This is no way to begin a mystery - or any book.
Oct 03, 2020 rated it liked it
The second Judge Dee book I've read. Like The Bell Murders, Judge Dee job is complicated because there are three mysteries to solve at once, but he can handle it! Somehow this book wasn't as exciting to me as the one I read earlier; I think perhaps because it didn't seem to give as much extraneous information about China during the Tang Empire (1st Century AD). ...more
Momchil Atanasoff
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book, i'm yet to find a book of Van Qulik that i don't like ... ...more
Mazeli Dee
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is when Tao Gan joined the tribunal.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite Judge Dee books. Great plot, great atmosphere and characterisation.
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Quite catching and most instructive !
Tom Bell
I'm loving this series. So good. ...more
Apr 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Another fun book in the Judge Dee series with political intrigue, passion, and murder. Not my favorite but still an enjoyable read.
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Probably my favourite of the classic Judge Dee mysteries by RH van Gulik.

Part of the appeal is all in the setup. A small sleepy town at the foot of the hills, sixty miles away from Chang'an. Possibly a town with a very dark secret, given the beating and drowning of the dancing-girl and courtesan Xinghua, at an informal party held for Judge Dee by the local town magnates - right after she had hinted to him of an evil conspiracy. The suspects are the very same magnates and tradesmen of the town, w
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
When I started this book I thought "What the hell's going on?". The first few paragraphs appear to be about a man who is haunted by some malicious force, perhaps spirit. Then it turned into a quite good detective story and the "haunted" man had disappeared and never made a comeback.... how strange?
The detective story is quite entertaining with lots of little twists and turns that keep you rolling along. The supporting characters are fun and have their own adventures whilst engaged in the investi
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
The outcome of the story for Dee himself is not glory but a chewing-out by his superiors. The implication is that the ancient Chinese judicial and administrative system actually expects a Sherlock Holmes level of competence from its magistrates, and that Dee should have been on top of events from the very start.

I came away from this very pleased. It's interesting to see a mystery framed by an entirely different system of jurisprudence, and van Gulik goes to lengths to justify the story details w
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
# 4 in the Judge Dee series.

Judge Dee travels throughout China to serve as magistrate. In this installment, he is in Han-yuan, where the case he is supposed to investigate involves embezzlement. However, as in all of these books, a number of different mysteries arise: the popular courtesan disappearance of the top courtesan Almond Blossom and the replacement of the body of a dead bride with a man who had most obviously been murdered. Add the White Lotus sect (a notoriously dangerous sect of reb
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended, 2009
Culturally, historically delightful and seemingly accurate. Half of Robert Hans van Gulik's energy seems spent upon the romanticized crime case and the detectiving that goes on about it, while the other half is spent in providing historically accurate details about costume, custom, architecture, and life in general to that period in China. Generally, the writing is excellent, though it is not van Gulik's native language. Instead, it has that precision and deliberation that occurs from having lea ...more
Demetri Lee
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
I borrowed this book as a recommendation from a friend when we were speaking about gothic horror/romance. Anyhow, the setting for this book is dark and takes the reader back to Ancient Chinese where the "detective" is Judge Dee (as some of you may know, the judge often plays the role of investigator in Chinese history). I probably consider this to be one of my first adult mysteries, I enjoyed the read. How would I compare this to Sherlock Holmes? Unfortunately I'll let you know when I get around ...more
Apryl Anderson
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
(17.11.1993), This was a 1950s murder mystery with a very different setting. VanGulik used his experiences in China in an interesting way. Having read old Chinese mystery stories of the previous centuries, he could adapt them for his Western audience. I saw many Confucian influences, as well.
This was an action tale for men. I was really disgusted by the (too typical) characterization of women. I don’t remember any women of any substance in this tale. Only dead whores, albeit educated ones. Don
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, history
A murder at a gathering of prominent citizens leads to a web of politics, crime and conspiracy.

Which of the Judges' cases are part of the larger threat and which are just business as usual?
That's part of the fun of these books, is there will be four story threads, but only two of them connect.

Love the period detail of these books and seeing detective tropes and a police procedual filtered through a very different point of view.

Only weak spot is that 99% of the women in the cast are undeveloped d
Mar 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, detective
Being judge Dee means to solve everything and from mere murder of the courtesan the deep and dangerous crimes evaporated like chloroform. It was getting more and more complicated during the book and more characters were introduced before the grand finale, when everything was solved.THe evil was uncovered and killed off.
Simple. It was enjoying to read it.Nice historical detective story from fancy place and time. I think I will try another from this author.
Feb 13, 2012 rated it liked it
In this tale, we find Judge Dee in his younger days as a new magistrate in Han-yuan. Three cases, all intertwined, make up the bulk of this novel. Murder, revenge, love, conspiracies, the hunger for power, courtesans, and bandits all make appearances. Solid writing, but the plot is the sort where you really do need the "And this is how I figured it all out" exposition at the end to really suss it all out. Otherwise, a fine effort and enjoyable read. ...more
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Robert Hans van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat best known 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 histor ...more

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 Monkey and The Tiger
  • The Haunted Monastery
  • The Chinese Bell Murders
  • The Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl
  • Poets and Murder

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