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The Chinese Bell Murders

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #8)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,471 ratings  ·  112 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.

Paperback, 262 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 1958)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  1,471 ratings  ·  112 reviews

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Henry Avila
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 held, seeing the leading citizens and taking over from his able predecessor Judge Feng, only one murder case active . Still that has been solved already ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
Ming Wei
A sort of far east version of UK Sherlock Holmes, as allot to offer the reader, a well detailed detective theme novel, that takes place within a very interesting period in time, I was surprised how quickly I began to enjoy this book, I could tell after the 1st 20 pages that I had made the right choice to read it, really well written, detective Dee (China), Sherlock Holmes (UK), Inspector K (Korea) all roles into one, the outcome of the story is not disclosed until the end (usually half way throu ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Yes, I missed these completely. All of these Judge Dee books written 70 years ago or more. But I won't refrain from reading any I can presently find.

This is Northern China in the 6th and 7th centuries and the Magistrate of the District is Judge Dee. The characterizations are spectacular and the nuance for the period and the context of the Chinese under the Confucian structures just phenomenal. THE DETAIL! And yet every personality differs and has dozens of surfaces to moment and placement.

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
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.
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,75 stars

I quite enjoyed reading about these various mysteries but I think the one about a feud between two families took too much space and got repetitive.
Ivonne Rovira
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Ram Kaushik
May 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding and erudite entertainment, as expected from the Judge Dee series.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I did no research before I got this book, absolutely none. I picked it off the shelf and thought it sounded so interesting that I was willing to risk wasting my money on a terrible book for the chance to read it. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a book of traditional Chinese detective stories?
Then I read the introduction by Donald F. Lach. Mostly that introduction was about the author, Robert van Gulik. I wish I hadn’t learned so much about his other literary efforts. He chose to republish, for a
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Donna LaValley
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-read
This is one of at least 4 books about Judge Dee, a magistrate in ancient China who moonlights as a detective when cases brought to him in the tribunal, or court, puzzle him and he can’t rule in good conscience. The great distance in time and place make for interesting reading in this century.

There was a real Judge Dee, Judge Dee-Jen Dijeh, who lived from 630 – 700 AD. He was a Confucian scholar whose wisdom was widely known. His cleverly solved cases and appropriate judgments became stories tha
Cathy Cole
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Back in the 1980s, my mother read all Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee books and loved them. I knew that, sooner or later, I would have to read at least one of them myself. Much, much later, I have finally done so, and I can see why Mom enjoyed them so much.

Three of Judge Dee's cases are covered in The Chinese Bell Murders: "Rape Murder in Half Moon Street," "The Secret Door of the Buddhist Temple," and "The Case of the Skeleton Under the Bell."

Judge Dee is often called the Sherlock Holmes of ancie
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, the first Judge Dee mystery I have read. The setting of Tang era China and the range of characters are all beautifully drawn and show the extent of van Gulik's scholarship and depth of his knowledge. There is none of the artificially historical in the place of the characters, the mystery is paramount and the setting, both time and place, just add to the enjoyment. Each of these interlinked mysteries is well plotted and enjoyable, everything is not what it seems at fir ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Love the reasoning he uses to solve the crimes and the peek into life in 7th century China. Good character building.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Have read 2 Judge Dee mysteries. The Chinese Bell Murders is the first of the series. Have really enjoyed both books!
Jimmy Lee
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
In 1974, I saw a movie on TV about an 18th century Chinese detective. What with the exciting mix of costumes, mystery, and history, the plot didn't stick with me, but the concept did. So I was thrilled to discover, in my stack of pending mysteries, that I had a book starring 18th century Chinese Judge (and as a result, detective) Dee.

Van Gulik, according to the preface in my book, began writing the Judge Dee stories, based on Tang dynasty historical figure/magistrate and statesman Di Renjie, to
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best of the three Judge Dee books read so far. Maybe my comments about the language (of the first book read earlier in the month) had to do with the fact that it has been a while that I read in German, as I had less of a problem with the flow of words here ... on the other hand, the language of "Mord im Labyrinth" did feel unpolished and abrupt to a point of being at times irritating ... but not enough to make me stop reading ...

I really enjoyed the stories in this book, and I did like that
Karen GoatKeeper
Judge Dee arrives at his new post in Poo-yang to find an unfinished case waiting for him. Except he has doubts about his predecessor's conclusions. Then an old woman comes asking for help finding her grandson and saying a wealthy merchant is responsible for murdering the young man. The wealthiest place in town is a Buddhist monastery known for the statue of a goddess said to help childless couples have children. The Judge is skeptical that everything at the monastery is legitimate.
These three ca
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another nice book in this series. By now the trend is familiar. Judge Dee arrives in his latest post and is confronted with an immediate case where the culprit seems clear, but the Judge disagrees. Along with this arrive 2 other cases. Often the cases are interlinked. They often involve a threat to the Empire. His able lieutenants, instructed by the Judge, do a lot of digging and unearth evidence. Judge Dee sees what other don't and is able to solve all 3 cases quickly.

I don't know much about a
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this and will probably look for more Judge Dee books. There are three mysteries that Judge Dee has to solve in each book, an interesting twist.

Judge Dee is a Magistrate in ancient China, back when torturing people to confess, then executing them for the crimes they confessed to, was standard practice. Apparently Judge Dee was a real person during the Tang Dynasty, then hundreds of years later someone wrote a book about him (I think that book was fictional), then Robert van Gul
Jim Layman
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This volume is my first exposure to the Judge Dee saga. Van Gulik's interpretation is a fast paced, slightly sordid mystery. Indeed, women seem to fare poorly in the world of Judge Dee, primarily portrayed for their sexuality. Criminals are mercilessly tortured and executed. However, the interplay between the Judge and his assistants, alongside the cultural richness of the ancient Chinese tribunal are interesting. ...more
Judge Dee, as usual, doesn't disappoint. This one was a bit different than the rest, with the cases being solved one after another rather that all at once at the end, but it had all the typical features of these kind of stories - masterfully described setting and great mysteries. I've enjoyed it very much and only regret that there are so few of these novels left for me to read. ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I want this to be a movie.
Maybe not live action.
An animated movie would work fine.
I want more!
This is a genre of book I had not heard of
Chinese Detective Story
But not as in a Charlie Chan way
but in actual ancient China.
Alison Peters
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series
A Judge Dee mystery - good one with 3 different problems that he solves. Enjoy his 4 assistants and their antics. Looking forward to reading them all (again).
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dee and his assistants get into yet another tricky batch of cases. I like how Dee get smarter over the course of the series.
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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 Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl
  • Poets and Murder

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