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The Chinese Maze Murders

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #13)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,395 ratings  ·  107 reviews
A.D. 670

Poisoned plums, a cryptic scroll picture, passionate love letters, and a hidden murderer with a penchant for torturing and killing women lead Judge Dee to the heart of the Governor’s garden maze and the answers to three interwoven mysteries. The Chinese Maze Murders represents Robert van Gulik’s first venture into writing suspense novels after the success of Dee
Paperback, 321 pages
Published August 4th 1997 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1951)
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 ·  1,395 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
On the way after a long, slow, dull journey to his new post in Lan-fang, just over the next ridge, the astute magistrate Judge Dee from the Imperial capital, Chang'an (Xi'an), has four horse drawn carts , three wives , an unknown number of children, four trusted lieutenants, drivers, servants and ten highwaymen who ambush the entourage, in a small valley from the cover of a forest, below the hills of remote northwestern China, on the border with barbarian hordes who roam across the river. These ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, multi-culti
Who knew 7th century China could provide such fertile source material for mysteries? And who knew that it would take a Dutch diplomat to share the style with the West? Not me. The descriptions don't quite do it justice, and the explanation behind the stories usually add another layer of interest. In this one, Van Gulik regains some of the needed pacing and action of The Chinese Gold Murders, and had me intrigued from chapter one.

Judge Dee has a new post, a border city under periodic threat from
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant book set during Tang dynasty China. Making use of various traditional Chinese methods of telling crime stories, Robert van Gulik has created a story that is similar to traditional Chinese murder mystery stories. Written in English by a Dutch diplomat for translation into Chinese and Japanese, which is unique in itself, this book is proper historical fiction of the best kind. It depicts Judge Dee, based on a real and most interesting person called Di Renjie, who was a magistra ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You really do feel that you are learning a lot about the ancient Chinese culture with this series. There are several inertwined stories all solved by Magistrate Dee. Very enjoyable.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Judge Dee wades through a maze of murders, motivations and mendacity to unravel three tricky mysteries and foil a barbarian invasion in the process. I particularly liked the depiction of the old hermit who gives Dee various gnomic but crucial clues and makes the formidable magistrate briefly consider giving up the hurly-burly of public service for a life of rural seclusion.
Ivonne Rovira
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers looking for the offbeat
I am a long-time fan of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee series of mysteries. Van Gulik, a celebrated Orientalist and linguist and the Dutch ambassador to Japan, was fluent in Mandarin, among other Asian languages; his first Judge Dee book, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, was actually a translation of the cases of an actual Tang Dynasty magistrate and statesman by the name of Dee Goong An (sometimes transliterated as Dee Jen-Djieh and Dí Rénjié). Van Gulik realized that, if he recast the case files a ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Mysteries
I had read this before--decades ago as a teen and can't say even after reading it again I could say I remembered it--which is a point against it. It's a historical mystery set in China's Tang Dynasty around 700 AD and featuring Judge Dee. He's a historical figure with the kind of legendary reputation of a Sherlock Holmes as a detective. The plot is clever that way--worthy of a Conan Doyle, if not with the memorable and jaw-dropping quality of Christie. The style is rather clunky. Robert van Guli ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Chinese Maze Murders is my absolute favourite in the Judge Dee series, which spans 17 books in all - including Van Gulik's original translation of Dee Gong An and two short story-collections. Some of these (short) stories were reworked into graphic novels by Van Gulik and graphic artist Frits Kloezeman, to be published in Het Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad and other Dutch papers from 1964-1985.

I have been reading and re-reading these books since I was about ten years of age. History, fiction and myst
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This is officially my first review on GoodReads!!! It is also one of my first reviews ever. So, bare with me.

The Chinese Maze Murders by Robert Hans van Gulik, is very different from books with younger (more innocent/pure) characters in fantasy/sci-fi settings that I am usually drawn to. I have owned this book for at least 3 or 4 years and never even read the back cover or needless to say, cracked it open. I wish I had sooner.

This book was delightfully enjoyable. I liked the mixture of civil and
Nancy Oakes
1st in a series of books about an ancient Chinese magistrate Dee Goong An,who, with his entourage, solves crimes. In this particular installment, there are 3 subplots: Murder in the Sealed Room, a missing testament, and last but not least, a story that features a girl without a head. Most interesting is the way the story is told and the supernatural elements. Very very good.
Les Wilson
May 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Love these books
Frank Jacobs
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A familiar genre - the detective story - in an exotic setting: a border town in the Chinese Empire, many centuries ago. Hand-crafted by a Dutch diplomat after genuine examples, these mysteries prove an enticing mix between the satisfyingly familiar and the enticingly exotic.
A highly enjoyable detective set in ancient China. Robert van Gulik definitely made me interested in reading more in this genre. He bases his stories on an old Chinese genre of writing detective stories, which revolve around the magistrate: a government official who was in charge of justice. He was the detective and the judge in one.

The story is streamlined to revolve around the mysteries, with the historical and cultural context as a background. Therefore, unlike historical novels pure sang, a
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Unlike modern western mysteries where the detective has one case to solve in the course of the story, Judge Dee solves several, mostly unrelated, cases. As a result the feel of the story is more "slice of life" than "dramatic event", which I enjoyed.

Potential readers should be aware that the story does reflect the culture of the times, both that of the writer and that of Judge Dee. There is a lot of casual violence in the day to day life of the characters, torture is a valid way to obtain confes
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Two books in one of my favorite mystery series, the Judge Dee novels, about a 7th-century Chinese magistrate. Robert van Gulik evokes the setting well. Even though he knew much more about ancient China than the reader, he never pulls a bad sci-fi move such as having the characters tell each other the social context they should already know. Van Gulik was also great at physical settings (here, a 200-year-old monastery during a summer thunderstorm and Lan-fang, a town on the northwest border that ...more
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Starts off coming into new jurisdiction to find a tyrant has overtaken the town, is he He is more concerned with solving an open 8 year old case than he is with the tyrant. He handles the tyrant easily and goes on to solve 2 murders. Love the look into life in China in the 7th century, what they eat, clothes, customs and punishments.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
Recommended to Laura by: Hayes
This is the story of Judge Dee who tries to solve three interconnected mysteries in the 16th century in China. Excellent reading.

This e-book is available free at the University of Chicago Press:
Bert van der Vaart
A wonderful book by a renaissance man--Dutch foreign service officer with a deep background in Asian cultures and art. Van Gulik wrote a series of mysteries based on actual ancient Chinese crimes committed, in the style and accurate historical context of those times. The strict Chinese hierarchy is reflected in these mysteries, as well as the power of the Emperor and subordination of all commercial life to the successful emperor's (wise) leadership. While sometimes the harshness of the punishmen ...more
Karen GoatKeeper
Judge Dee hasn't finished his tenure at Poo-Yang when he is sent to a new post at Lan-Fang. As he approaches the city, he is beset by robbers. When he arrives, no one meets him. The Tribunal is thick with dust with no records from the previous magistrate.
First Judge Dee must deal with a local man who has usurped power in the city. Second he must deal with a locked room murder. Third he must resolve an inheritance dispute by deciphering the clue in a landscape painting. Fourth he must find a youn
Brad McKenna
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
The Dutch Ambassador to Japan created a fictionalized version of an historical Chinese Magistrate. It was interesting (and entertaining) to see an Eastern take on the Detective genre. A few items of note:

First, Judge Dee wasn't an omniscient detective and admits when others have good ideas or when he makes mistakes. Not always the case with Western Detectives.

Chinese culture was violent! Dee thinks nothing of having his bailiffs pull off a person being questioned's robe and whipping them. They'
Justin Newland
Initially, this novel went against the grain for me because I wanted to read stories written in the Ming Dynasty period, and this was a modern author writing about those times. Nonetheless, I thought I'd give it a go, and see what I could glean about the culture of the time, which was my aim. Van Gulik included a lot of interesting detail, and the novel was well researched.
I guess I was also convinced to read it because Van Gulik had written so many other novels set in China, so I figured he mu
Wow, that one was sooo good! I'm glad to have discovered it and I can't wait to read more.

Locked room mystery? Check.
Multiple, sometimes intertwining cases? Check.
Historical, exotic setting? Check.

I liked how the various plot arcs interacted plus of course the setting itself was supremely interesting. One has to applaud the author obviously knowing what he was writing about but being able to adapt it to the needs of modern (or relatively modern, seeing how the books were written decades ago) rea
Simon Parker-Shames
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
van Gulik tells Chinese stories in a way no translator could. Although he started off by providing deeply faithful translations of Judge Dee stories, his original fiction allows him to adapt stories to have the kind of effect on a Western audience that the genre has on Chinese audiences. It's less literal, yet ultimately more faithful. And, of course, they are wild, puzzling, and engaging stories of an era and a culture long passed, told by one of its most ardent enthusiasts. ...more
Oana-Maria Uliu
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it
The author intended to write a Chinese multiple murder mystery in the style of old Chinese writings. Even though this gives the book a feel of authenticity, it also makes it less engaging for the contemporary reader. Which may be why this book is underhyped. We should, nevertheless, appreciate the work, all the research and translations that led to the writing of this series.
My reason for giving it only three stars is the fact that I didn't like the ending.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4,65 a few entangled stories solved & interlined simultaneously, with a chip of icetype-fun ( resulted from "old China ages" and those habits ) and almost "Sherlock Holmes" version of deduction ( in lower level, but hey, there´s only one SH )

relaxing, smart & not exacting ( OK, demanding are "names and persons" :-)

Sorin Hadârcă
May 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, china, detective
East or West, the appeal of detective novels is that justice always comes on top. The postscript provides a useful description of the justice system of T'ang China, and the rest is Harry Potter for grownups (in the good sense). I wonder how long it will take to make Judge Dee a famous cinematic super-hero? ...more
Desiree Koh
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I got the book from Book Depository (sorry) and saw it was about twice the heft of a usual Judge Dee mystery, my elation soared to August Heaven. This must be how Game Of Thrones fans feel when they see a 90-minute episode.
Mazeli Dee
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I did not expect to bawl my eyes out in this book. Gosh, Chiao Tai made me cry buckets!
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent re-read of an old series.
Jacqueline Bussjaeger
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A delightful surprise! Engaging read based on translations of traditional Chinese mystery stories.
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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 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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