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The Chinese Maze Murders (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #13)

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  915 Ratings  ·  71 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
ebook, 233 pages
Published July 15th 2010 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1951)
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Community Reviews

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Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:
Justin Newland
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
This is one of the famous Judge Dee mysteries based on an historical character from the Tang Dynasty. Robert van Gulik researched and then stylistically replicated with great accuracy a Chinese murder mystery that he felt would appeal to Westerners. At the time of the original publication I don't think there was another series quite like the Judge Dee books. The Chinese Maze Murders presents Judge Dee with three mysteries to solve ( a conceit used in ancient Chinese mysteries) shortly after he a ...more
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have first read this book (and ten others in the series) in the mid-eighties. I do like the stories and the cultural setting, which back then were rather exotic to me.
The books read fast; however, I do find that the characters are rather one-dimensional and not very much developed. They are little more than typical representatives of different groups, such as soldiers, businessmen, students, artists and, of course, government bureaucrats like Judge Di himself. Likely, this is on purpose though
Barbara Gregorich
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I first read the Judge Dee novels during the 1970s and recently decided to re-read a couple of them, to see if they were as good as I remembered. Before reading this one, though, I feared that I might not find them as enjoyable as I once did. However, my fear disappeared after the first chapter, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Dee novels, written by the Dutch author Robert Van Gulik during the 1950s and '60s, are set in China during the Tang Dynasty, and the actual Judge Dee (Ti Jen-Chie) lived f
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of mysteries, early China, Judge Dee
There are three intertwined mysteries in this book, complicated by corrupt local administrations and an impending barbarian invasion. Judge Dee, of course, solves the mysteries, defeats the barbarians, and establishes an honest government. It's how he does these things, and the characters he meets, that make this a good story.

Judge Dee once again encounters some reluctant criminals on the road. This encounter helps establish Judge Dee's character for the new reader. Most of the characters, even
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do enjoy the Van Gulik Dee murders. They may not be much for mysteries in that you can't really try and figure out who did it, as the murderers aren't always in the stories till later but they are still quite fun. This one I had to say was a little more chaotic than normal. It had around 5 different storylines and plots at the same time. There wasn't much interconnectedness and they all got resolved quite quickly. There was the case of a painting revealing an inhertiance which I was sure was u ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The author was a student of ancient Chinese history and it shows in the level of detail which he includes, although the detail is not so heavy as to impede the stories. If it seemed a little slow at first, it was likely because the novel is based on real cases and written in a style the author felt would best reflect its origins.

The character of Judge Dee is a marvelous showcase of a Confucianist magistrate at the peak of Confucianism in China. An extremely virtuous
Carrie Mansfield
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
If you've found these books, you already likely are familiar with them and what they are about - neither the author nor his style are exactly household names so I needn't sell you on the virtues of these books.

If you haven't, I can say that if you're truly looking for a change from the typical western mystery you will enjoy the more deliberate pacing, the unique setting and the way that the title character is Detective, Judge and Jury. The scenes of violence - descriptions of courtroom violence
This is a reread of a series associated with happiness and joy. I was a bit reluctant to reread these again. Well, I was worried for nothing. It's still captivates me, makes me smile, laugh and angry a bit too (there's plot point in this novel I didn't remember and now many years later makes me cringe. That plot point aside, I liked the friendships between Judge Dee and his staff, the way Dee finds the answers and solves the puzzles are usually crafty and cunning.

I liked it them, I like it now
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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
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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