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The Chinese Maze Murders

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #13)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,124 ratings  ·  78 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 G
Paperback, 321 pages
Published August 4th 1997 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1951)
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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,124 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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: multi-culti, mystery
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.
Inese Okonova
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pāris grāmatu par senās Ķīnas tiesnesi Dī jau biju lasījusi pirms kādiem padsmit gadiem. Toreiz ņēmu no tēva detektīvu kolekcijas un lasīju krieviski. Tagad nolēmu palasīt pēc kārtas un angliski. Nevīlos.

Autors ir holandiešu diplomāts, akadēmiski izglītots seno Ķīnas, Japānas un citu Āzijas valstu kultūru un valodu pazinējs. Sākumā van Guliks iztulkoja un izdeva oriģinālu senās Ķīnas detektīvu par tiesnesi Dī, bet vēlāk "pēc lasītāju vēlēšanās" tapa vesela sērija jau paša Gulika sacerētu darbu
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arvatavasti parim kohtunik Di juhtumitest, ja tegelikult kõige esimesena kirjutatud - kuigi sarjasisese kronoloogia järgi juba suht lõpus. Siin polegi midagi, mis ei saaks meeldida. Suletud ruumis toimuva mõrva juhtum, kadunud kaunis neiu, salapärane labürint mis peidab endas mõistatuse lahendust. kohtunik Di oma värvika nelja abilisega, kes sedapuhku kõik ka möllavad palehigis - enamjaolt on esindatud ainult üks või kaks, ja nii edasi. Kui keegi ei tea mida kohtunik Di juhtumid endast kujutavad ...more
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:
Jiří Pavlovský
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Po devíti set stránkové knize jsem sáhl po něčem podstatně kratším. Po létech jsem znovu otevřel Soudce ti. Staré dobré detektivky, které mají tak 170 stran, během kterých se vyřeší hned tří a více různých zločinů. Číňani se s tím nemažou. Upřímně, jako detektivka to není nic moc (taky byly tyhle věci napsané někdy v padesátých letech minulého století) ale utáhne to tempo (jako tam jsou tři případy, tak se pořád něco děje), atmosféra a doba. Jsou tam záhadné bludiště, mrtvoly bez hlavy, sadistic ...more
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
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent re-read of an old series.
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!
Jacqueline Bussjaeger
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A delightful surprise! Engaging read based on translations of traditional Chinese mystery stories.
Irfan Nurhadi
Cukup menarik. Terutama alurnya yang menyuguhkan pengusutan berbagai kasus secara paralel. Full review menyusul!!
Hakim Dee sibuk sekali di buku yang satu ini. Bukan hanya satu atau dua kasus saja yang harus dipecahkannya, namun total ada lima perkara berturut-turut, yaitu 2 usaha makar, 1 pembunuhan, 1 orang hilang dan 1 perkara perebutan warisan. Itu belum termasuk perkara-perkara sepele yang mampir ke ruang sidangnya. Namun ternyata semua perkara tersebut saling kait-mengkait, bukan saja di masa sekarang, namun juga sudah sedari masa yang lampau di mana sebagain pelaku-pelakunya sudah tidak ada lagi. Jad ...more
Gottfried Neuner
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Judge Dee novels by Robert van Gulik are a strange beast. The author was in the Dutch diplomatic service in Asia during WWII and decided to translate an old Chinese mystery novel based on stories of the historical Judge Dee Renjie. (the Tang-era personality still is well-known in China, there have been two high-end movies and multiple TV series based on the same character within the last decade or so).
The original book, the Dee Gong An, was written by an anonymous author in 17th century Min
Mal Warwick
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Robert van Gulik’s series of 16 Judge Dee mysteries are set in China sometime during the era of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644: Goodreads sets the novel in 670, but that's wrong.) They’re grounded in his intensive scholarly study of ancient Chinese detective stories, some of which he has translated into English. The Chinese Maze Murders was the first novel in the series.

The book’s historical basis

In a postscript to the book, Van Gulik explains that the character of Judge Dee is loosely based on a
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Irrungen und Wirrungen eines Beamten

Richter Di hat es schon schwer: Kaum an seinem neuen Arbeitsplatz in Fanlan angekommen, stürzen schon die Probleme auf ihn ein. Sein Vorgänger ist geflohen, dessen Vorgänger ermordet worden, ein lokaler Tyrann hat die Macht im Dorf übernommen, wilde Uighurenhorden stehen vor dem Stadttor. Die chaotische Situation verschlimmert sich noch, als ein bekannter Exgeneral ermordet aufgefunden wird, die Tochter eines Schmieds verschwindet und auch noch parallel dazu e
Alexander Inglis
And now for something completely different ... The Chinese Maze Murders, the first of Robert Van Gulik's Judge Dee Mystery series, published in 1956. And, no kidding: these are the tales of Lan-fang's new newly arrived District Magistrate who is detective, prosecutor and judge in T'ang Dynasty China -- roughly 670 AD. Although a true historical figure, the stories are an amalgamation and re-imagining of many such stories that make up traditional Chinese literature. In this first outing, Judge De ...more
First sentence: "Judge Dee leaned back in his chair."

P. 99: "Chien stared at the judge with burning eyes."

Last sentence: "He swung himself in the saddle and rode back to the city."

From Wikipedia: The Chinese Maze Murders is a detective novel written by Robert van Gulik and set in Imperial China. It is a fiction based on the real character of Judge Dee (Ti Jen-chieh or Di Renjie - chin: 狄仁傑), a magistrate and statesman of the Tang court, who lived roughly 630–700. However, van Gulik's novel is s
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
Judge Dee and his judicial entourage come to town to replace the current magistrate only to find him deceased. His investigations turn up an intrigue involving the family of a Chinese gang family as well as a number of shady family members. Using his reasoning, Judge Dee discerns the problems and brings order to the municipality. The investigation is interesting to follow, and the fates of the perpetrators are quite medieval. An easier read than most Judge Dee 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 (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #1)
  • The Chinese Gold Murders
  • The Lacquer Screen (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #3)
  • Judge Dee at Work: Eight Chinese Detective Stories
  • The Chinese Lake Murders
  • The Monkey and The Tiger
  • The Haunted Monastery
  • The Chinese Bell Murders (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #8)
  • The Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl