Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert van Gulik

First Line: It is now six years since I withdrew from the prosperous tea firm inherited from my father, and settled down to peaceful retirement in our country villa outside the eastern city gate.

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 ancient China, and it's easy to see why. These cases are all about their ingenious mysteries, all about solving the puzzles. Judge Dee thinks nothing of donning disguises to get at the truth, and he is scrupulous at upholding the law, although not all of his able assistants are. I also appreciated the glimpse into the life and culture of 7th-century China.

This is a series that I feel I can come back to once in a while when I'm in the mood for a "Just the facts, ma'am" mystery. Even though I am a bone-deep character-driven reader, there is something to be said for occasionally solving a concise puzzle or two.

The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert van Gulik
ISBN: 9780060728885
Harper Perennial © 2004
Originally published 1958.
Paperback, 262 pages

Historical Mystery, #2 Judge Dee mystery
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet.



  1. I like the Judge Dee mysteries, too, Cathy. There's a real sense of time and place there, at least for me. And I like your parallel to Sherlock Holmes. I see the resemblance...

    1. Sometimes I really enjoy stories that are all about solving the puzzle, and these are perfect for that.

  2. How intriguing. I've never read these books, but I read about them once in awhile. Not sure, but I'd like to read one to see how it is.
    My first detective was Holmes. My father started me reading his mysteries, as I think he wanted me to both enjoy the books as he did, and also encourage me to think scientifically, based on facts.
    You are lucky your mother was a mystery fan. My father read certain authors, and so I read some of their books, mostly Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Perry Mason and Hercule Poirot.
    I do love good investigations, but characters are key, too.

    1. Mom wasn't that much of a mystery fan. I remember her reading more historical fiction than anything else, but she was a librarian, instinctively curious, and felt she owed it to the patrons to keep abreast of everything that was being written. We complimented each other because, as readers, we each had different strengths.


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