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A.D. 666 The Chinese Lake Murders describes how Judge Dee solves three difficult cases in A.D. 666, shortly after he has been appointed magistrate of Han-yuan. "[Robert van Gulik] deftly interweaves three criminal cases involving exotic yet universally recognizable characters, then has his Judge Dee provide a surprising yet most plausible solution."--New York Times Book Revi A.D. 666 The Chinese Lake Murders describes how Judge Dee solves three difficult cases in A.D. 666, shortly after he has been appointed magistrate of Han-yuan. "[Robert van Gulik] deftly interweaves three criminal cases involving exotic yet universally recognizable characters, then has his Judge Dee provide a surprising yet most plausible solution."--New York Times Book Review Robert Van Gulik (1910-67) was a Dutch diplomat and an authority on Chinese history and culture. He drew his plots from the whole body of Chinese literature, especially from the popular detective novels that first appeared in the seventeenth century.


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A.D. 666 The Chinese Lake Murders describes how Judge Dee solves three difficult cases in A.D. 666, shortly after he has been appointed magistrate of Han-yuan. "[Robert van Gulik] deftly interweaves three criminal cases involving exotic yet universally recognizable characters, then has his Judge Dee provide a surprising yet most plausible solution."--New York Times Book Revi A.D. 666 The Chinese Lake Murders describes how Judge Dee solves three difficult cases in A.D. 666, shortly after he has been appointed magistrate of Han-yuan. "[Robert van Gulik] deftly interweaves three criminal cases involving exotic yet universally recognizable characters, then has his Judge Dee provide a surprising yet most plausible solution."--New York Times Book Review Robert Van Gulik (1910-67) was a Dutch diplomat and an authority on Chinese history and culture. He drew his plots from the whole body of Chinese literature, especially from the popular detective novels that first appeared in the seventeenth century.

30 review for The Chinese Lake Murders

  1. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    In the small isolated mountain city of Han-yuan, dominated by a large majestic lake and famous for its floating brothels "Flower Boats", Judge Dee is the newly appointed by the exalted Emperor , district magistrate. However he is bored , nothing has happened during his two tiresome months there, just sixty miles north from the grand Chinese Imperial Capital too...The time... A.D. 666 seems destined to remain mundane , the dark mysterious lake's waters holds secrets well though , four unlucky peo In the small isolated mountain city of Han-yuan, dominated by a large majestic lake and famous for its floating brothels "Flower Boats", Judge Dee is the newly appointed by the exalted Emperor , district magistrate. However he is bored , nothing has happened during his two tiresome months there, just sixty miles north from the grand Chinese Imperial Capital too...The time... A.D. 666 seems destined to remain mundane , the dark mysterious lake's waters holds secrets well though , four unlucky people drowned in them this year, and their bodies disappeared never to be seen again. The leading men of the town, are giving the judge a banquet to honor the honorable man , where ? On a Flower Boat where else ?....The highlight of the night is the sensual dance of a courtesan performed beautifully, mostly naked by Almond Blossom, she moves very erotically in front of the old men , the girl is eighteen. Later in the night, Almond Blossom can't be located, a search for her all through the boat but nothing...Dee and his assistants help , finally the magistrate looks over the railing , sees a strange sight...Staring back at him are two dead eyes below the surface of the lake's murky waters... a frozen beautiful face watching, it makes Dee feel very uneasy, haunting him for a long , long time in his nightmarish dreams. The city is full of wild rumors , hideous creatures coming up from the bottom of the lake and killing innocent citizens. Still the magistrate is an educated man, knowing murder has been cruelly committed by human hands besides, before being permanently silenced, the lovely girl told him she had vital information to disclose. Shortly afterwards a horrendous storm develops , big waves smash into the fragile vessel rocking it violently , making many passengers "seasick ". An intense struggle follows , the sweet shore is reached at last only after the crews skillful maneuverings , to the relief of all. But the judge's job has just begun, many obvious suspects , prominent respectable men and few clues he has . At the courtesan's spacious home the "manager"is told by Dee, to write a detailed report of the dead girl's abbreviated life in triplicates ...naturally, demands the disturbed , stern judge. Then a young happy married couple are "murdered", tragically, on their wedding night , the woman's lifeless body mysteriously vanishes from a coffin in the Buddhist Temple and in her place a dead man , where is Moon Fairy?...and her husband ? Another case of the usual three, the unexplained financial dealings of an ancient retired, high -ranking, imperial official. The ghostly image in a window spotted by the judge himself...whispers of a secret conspiracy to overthrow the government. He and his four men need answers quickly, otherwise....The key to solving all Dee's big headaches, is a chess problem written seventy years ago...Yes, the magistrate will not be sleeping very much now, but at least he'll not be bored . A great Judge Dee novel, maybe the best or one of the two best I've read , The Haunted Monastery in a rather spooky location is ... splendid ...Nevertheless books to consume in the inimitable series...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Robert van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat, linguist (he writes English like a native!), and an expert in China, both modern and ancient. Thank God he also decided to become an author! The Chinese Lake Murders unfurls with three cases from when Judge Dee was a new magistrate in Han-yuang in A.D. 666. While being feted on a pleasure boat, Judge Dee discovers the body of a murdered courtesan, Almond Blossom. Just moments earlier, the girl had whispered to Judge Dee that a terrible conspiracy was afoot i Robert van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat, linguist (he writes English like a native!), and an expert in China, both modern and ancient. Thank God he also decided to become an author! The Chinese Lake Murders unfurls with three cases from when Judge Dee was a new magistrate in Han-yuang in A.D. 666. While being feted on a pleasure boat, Judge Dee discovers the body of a murdered courtesan, Almond Blossom. Just moments earlier, the girl had whispered to Judge Dee that a terrible conspiracy was afoot in Han-yuang, making the magistrate certain that she was killed to keep her from divulging her secret. Traditionally, Chinese detective stories focus on three mysteries solved by a magistrate. However, in The Chinese Lake Murders, Judge Dee faces quite a few enigmas: The report of a bride who dies on her wedding night and is quickly laid into a coffin. When Judge Dee opens that coffin, the bride is gone, but the murdered corpse of a carpenter has taken its place! What happened to the bride? Who killed the carpenter? What happened to the bridegroom, who vanished on the same night? What is the dangerous conspiracy that Almond Blossom was murdered to conceal? And what about the strange actions of a 90-year-old retired Imperial Councilor? Those familiar with Judge Dee won't be surprised to find that these disparate threads become intertwined by the time of the novel's twist ending! That intertwined case becomes the most important case of Judge Dee's career -- and the centerpiece of an excellent novel. Van Gulik first introduced Judge Dee to the West in Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, first published in 1949 (although not translated into English until 1976). Using a real-life Chinese magistrate during the T'ang Dynasty named Ti Jen-chieh, van Gulik simplified the magistrate's name to Judge Dee Jen-djieh, and, in that first novel, he pretty much just used the cases from an 18th century Chinese detective novel, Dee Goong An. In his later novels, van Gulik, while influenced by cases from original ancient Chinese cases and 18th century Chinese detective stories, wrote the books from his own imagination. While some readers contend that the first book is van Gulik's best, I love The Lacquer Screen the best; that said, all of the Judge Dee novels I've read so far have been fantastic! I can't wait for the next one!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Wu

    Robert Van Gulik is a fascinating man and this novel reflects many of his interests. It combines scholarly attention to detail with a flair for melodrama and the macabre. He was very knowledgeable about ancient China and took a deep interest in Chinese erotic art. This mystery story draws on ancient Chinese detective stories, of which he had made a special study, and is enlivened with many erotic allusions to tease the reader's imagination. There are also a few action sequences featuring clever Robert Van Gulik is a fascinating man and this novel reflects many of his interests. It combines scholarly attention to detail with a flair for melodrama and the macabre. He was very knowledgeable about ancient China and took a deep interest in Chinese erotic art. This mystery story draws on ancient Chinese detective stories, of which he had made a special study, and is enlivened with many erotic allusions to tease the reader's imagination. There are also a few action sequences featuring clever tricks and deft manoeuvres of the kind found in ancient Chinese literature such as Outlaws of the Marsh and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It is more ambitious than it seems on the surface. If you return to the first five pages after reading it all, you will discover that what is at first a confused and confusing preface is an attempt to create a story that has no beginning and no end, just as the opening epigraph suggests: Only Heaven that wrote the scroll of human life Knows where its beginning is, and where its end— If end there be. It is, amongst other things, a ghost story, very much in the ancient Chinese tradition, and the drowned heroine of the story, to whom a monument is erected in honour of her brave and loyal actions, comes back to haunt with her seductive beauty, men who have evil in their hearts. Unfortunately I don't think the author's craft matches his ambition. The novel is too crammed with incidents. The language is sometimes awkward. There is little or no character development. There is a lot going on but much of it is explained only after it has happened, which makes it difficult to become caught up in the action. However, the Judge Dee stories, as far as I know, have no equivalent in English and I recommend them for anyone who likes exotic mysteries or is interested in China during the Ming Dynasty.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    Published in 1960, this is another of Robert van Gulik’s detective novels set in Imperial China the 8th century AD, sees Judge Dee investigating three apparently unconnected cases. One involves a beautiful murdered courtesan, one involves the death of a bride of her wedding night, and the third involves the strange financial transactions of an elderly imperial councillor. It soon becomes evident that none of these cases is what it seems, and that the judge has stumbled upon something much larger Published in 1960, this is another of Robert van Gulik’s detective novels set in Imperial China the 8th century AD, sees Judge Dee investigating three apparently unconnected cases. One involves a beautiful murdered courtesan, one involves the death of a bride of her wedding night, and the third involves the strange financial transactions of an elderly imperial councillor. It soon becomes evident that none of these cases is what it seems, and that the judge has stumbled upon something much larger and much more sinister. It’s wonderful entertainment.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mikhail

    As with so many classics, you read this, you have no idea why you read this since it violates every standard of how to write a proper mystery, and yet you can't stop. I will also say that Robert van Gulik was one of those authors who is at *least* as interesting as his characters.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian R. Mcdonald

    Go references: Little on the game itself, but a diagram of a game position plays a major role in the plot.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Filip

    I think I liked this one even more than the Labirynth one. I wasn't that fond of the entire conspiracy plot and the some aspects of the story arcs stretched the suspension of disbelief a bit too much... but I really liked how they were all intertwined, I really enjoyed the "Go" riddle that was given there and the way everything was solved. Additionally, I really liked how the Judge's assistant was introduced and all of his assistants received a nice bit of characterization here. Plus of course th I think I liked this one even more than the Labirynth one. I wasn't that fond of the entire conspiracy plot and the some aspects of the story arcs stretched the suspension of disbelief a bit too much... but I really liked how they were all intertwined, I really enjoyed the "Go" riddle that was given there and the way everything was solved. Additionally, I really liked how the Judge's assistant was introduced and all of his assistants received a nice bit of characterization here. Plus of course the whole setting (even if anachronistic) was really beautifully described and presented.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Dennis

    The plot was interesting and I enjoyed the character of Judge Dee. However, I did not like the opening section, which is a strange dream sequence set in the Ming Dynasty that distracted from the actual story (set in the Tang, hundreds of years before the Ming) and is never integrated into the conclusion. This is no way to begin a mystery - or any book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Momchil Atanasoff

    Fantastic book, i'm yet to find a book of Van Qulik that i don't like ...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mazeli Dee

    This is when Tao Gan joined the tribunal.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Romilly

    One of my favourite Judge Dee books. Great plot, great atmosphere and characterisation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Flapidouille

    Quite catching and most instructive !

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Probably my favourite of the classic Judge Dee mysteries by RH van Gulik. Part of the appeal is all in the setup. A small sleepy town at the foot of the hills, sixty miles away from Chang'an. Possibly a town with a very dark secret, given the beating and drowning of the dancing-girl and courtesan Xinghua, at an informal party held for Judge Dee by the local town magnates - right after she had hinted to him of an evil conspiracy. The suspects are the very same magnates and tradesmen of the town, w Probably my favourite of the classic Judge Dee mysteries by RH van Gulik. Part of the appeal is all in the setup. A small sleepy town at the foot of the hills, sixty miles away from Chang'an. Possibly a town with a very dark secret, given the beating and drowning of the dancing-girl and courtesan Xinghua, at an informal party held for Judge Dee by the local town magnates - right after she had hinted to him of an evil conspiracy. The suspects are the very same magnates and tradesmen of the town, who may or may not have been working together to kill her: Han Yongnan, Liu Feibo, Su Yicheng and Wang Yujue. A local elder statesman in retirement has taken to behaving in an irrational manner, much to the vexation of his poor nephew Liang Yide. A midnight attack on Han Yongnan leads Judge Dee to begin suspecting that a secret cult may be plotting against the Dragon Throne itself. In addition to the evil conspiracy, the novel features two pairs of young lovers, of which one of these pairs - Jiang Youbi and his new bride Liu Yue'e - seems cursed with a string of incredibly bad luck, leading in all appearances to both of their demises on their wedding-night. Additionally, an unsolved riddle on the last page of a manual, written by a weiqi master who lived in the town over seventy years ago, may hold the key to the entire case. But in order to solve all of these vexing cases, Judge Dee must make another addition to his band of assistants: Tao Gan, a more-than-middle-aged vagrant swindler, gambler and petty crook with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the criminal underworld. The book delivers superbly on the promises of its set-up. The atmosphere and the high-stakes tension don't let up even until the end, when Judge Dee's whole career and possibly his life are laid on the outcome of the case. It features van Gulik's preference for puzzles with an antiquarian and Sinological twist, as well as the fisticuffs, shady hotel back rooms, dilapidated temples and sordid brothels that van Gulik's brand of storytelling relishes in. And no mystery like this would work without a colourful cast of well-sketched characters: the blustering, oblivious and heavy-drinking town provost Han Yongnan; his talkative daughter Chuiliu; the somewhat stuffy professor Jiang Wenzhang; his skittish (but filial and protective) son Youbi, matched somewhat comically with his robust, fearless and tomboyish bride Yue'e; her jealous father Liu Feibo; the poor, careworn, lovestruck clerk Liang Yide; the sullen and brutish Su Yicheng; the sleazy man-of-business Wan Yifan; and of course the lovely but ill-fated murdered dancer Xinghua, whose backstory brings up more questions than it answers. My only complaint with this book (and it's not really even that much of a complaint), was the slightly clichéd way in which the murderer is revealed at the end, with Judge Dee literally challenging him by ripping his masque off. But other than that, the book is completely brilliant - Robert Hans van Gulik was clearly on his A-game here.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk

    When I started this book I thought "What the hell's going on?". The first few paragraphs appear to be about a man who is haunted by some malicious force, perhaps spirit. Then it turned into a quite good detective story and the "haunted" man had disappeared and never made a comeback.... how strange? The detective story is quite entertaining with lots of little twists and turns that keep you rolling along. The supporting characters are fun and have their own adventures whilst engaged in the investi When I started this book I thought "What the hell's going on?". The first few paragraphs appear to be about a man who is haunted by some malicious force, perhaps spirit. Then it turned into a quite good detective story and the "haunted" man had disappeared and never made a comeback.... how strange? The detective story is quite entertaining with lots of little twists and turns that keep you rolling along. The supporting characters are fun and have their own adventures whilst engaged in the investigation but it is Judge Dee who lies at the core of the story. He's investigating a murder that has taken place on board a boat in the middle of a lake, almost under his nose! The number of suspects is obviously limited, but it is not easy to get at the actual culprit. Then a series of, shall we call them misadventures?, misadventures occur that slightly sidetrack Judge Dee... yet they also appear to be connected.... Jolly good. I'd read another.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    The outcome of the story for Dee himself is not glory but a chewing-out by his superiors. The implication is that the ancient Chinese judicial and administrative system actually expects a Sherlock Holmes level of competence from its magistrates, and that Dee should have been on top of events from the very start. I came away from this very pleased. It's interesting to see a mystery framed by an entirely different system of jurisprudence, and van Gulik goes to lengths to justify the story details w The outcome of the story for Dee himself is not glory but a chewing-out by his superiors. The implication is that the ancient Chinese judicial and administrative system actually expects a Sherlock Holmes level of competence from its magistrates, and that Dee should have been on top of events from the very start. I came away from this very pleased. It's interesting to see a mystery framed by an entirely different system of jurisprudence, and van Gulik goes to lengths to justify the story details with regard to Chinese history and culture. It may not be a perfect rendition, but the versimilitude is there. All the women in the story appear to be known by English words: "Moon Fairy", "Almond Blossom", etc. Is this supposed to be the literal translation of their private names, and if so, why is this only done for the women?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    # 4 in the Judge Dee series. Judge Dee travels throughout China to serve as magistrate. In this installment, he is in Han-yuan, where the case he is supposed to investigate involves embezzlement. However, as in all of these books, a number of different mysteries arise: the popular courtesan disappearance of the top courtesan Almond Blossom and the replacement of the body of a dead bride with a man who had most obviously been murdered. Add the White Lotus sect (a notoriously dangerous sect of reb # 4 in the Judge Dee series. Judge Dee travels throughout China to serve as magistrate. In this installment, he is in Han-yuan, where the case he is supposed to investigate involves embezzlement. However, as in all of these books, a number of different mysteries arise: the popular courtesan disappearance of the top courtesan Almond Blossom and the replacement of the body of a dead bride with a man who had most obviously been murdered. Add the White Lotus sect (a notoriously dangerous sect of rebels) and Judge Dee has a full plate here. Recommended for people who enjoy books set in China, or who like historical mysteries.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Culturally, historically delightful and seemingly accurate. Half of Robert Hans van Gulik's energy seems spent upon the romanticized crime case and the detectiving that goes on about it, while the other half is spent in providing historically accurate details about costume, custom, architecture, and life in general to that period in China. Generally, the writing is excellent, though it is not van Gulik's native language. Instead, it has that precision and deliberation that occurs from having lea Culturally, historically delightful and seemingly accurate. Half of Robert Hans van Gulik's energy seems spent upon the romanticized crime case and the detectiving that goes on about it, while the other half is spent in providing historically accurate details about costume, custom, architecture, and life in general to that period in China. Generally, the writing is excellent, though it is not van Gulik's native language. Instead, it has that precision and deliberation that occurs from having learned all the pieces of a second language bit by slow bit.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Demetri Lee

    I borrowed this book as a recommendation from a friend when we were speaking about gothic horror/romance. Anyhow, the setting for this book is dark and takes the reader back to Ancient Chinese where the "detective" is Judge Dee (as some of you may know, the judge often plays the role of investigator in Chinese history). I probably consider this to be one of my first adult mysteries, I enjoyed the read. How would I compare this to Sherlock Holmes? Unfortunately I'll let you know when I get around I borrowed this book as a recommendation from a friend when we were speaking about gothic horror/romance. Anyhow, the setting for this book is dark and takes the reader back to Ancient Chinese where the "detective" is Judge Dee (as some of you may know, the judge often plays the role of investigator in Chinese history). I probably consider this to be one of my first adult mysteries, I enjoyed the read. How would I compare this to Sherlock Holmes? Unfortunately I'll let you know when I get around to finishing one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Apryl Anderson

    (17.11.1993), This was a 1950s murder mystery with a very different setting. VanGulik used his experiences in China in an interesting way. Having read old Chinese mystery stories of the previous centuries, he could adapt them for his Western audience. I saw many Confucian influences, as well. This was an action tale for men. I was really disgusted by the (too typical) characterization of women. I don’t remember any women of any substance in this tale. Only dead whores, albeit educated ones. Don (17.11.1993), This was a 1950s murder mystery with a very different setting. VanGulik used his experiences in China in an interesting way. Having read old Chinese mystery stories of the previous centuries, he could adapt them for his Western audience. I saw many Confucian influences, as well. This was an action tale for men. I was really disgusted by the (too typical) characterization of women. I don’t remember any women of any substance in this tale. Only dead whores, albeit educated ones. Don’t men get bored with sex kittens? Probably not.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    A murder at a gathering of prominent citizens leads to a web of politics, crime and conspiracy. Which of the Judges' cases are part of the larger threat and which are just business as usual? That's part of the fun of these books, is there will be four story threads, but only two of them connect. Love the period detail of these books and seeing detective tropes and a police procedual filtered through a very different point of view. Only weak spot is that 99% of the women in the cast are undeveloped d A murder at a gathering of prominent citizens leads to a web of politics, crime and conspiracy. Which of the Judges' cases are part of the larger threat and which are just business as usual? That's part of the fun of these books, is there will be four story threads, but only two of them connect. Love the period detail of these books and seeing detective tropes and a police procedual filtered through a very different point of view. Only weak spot is that 99% of the women in the cast are undeveloped damsels and courtesans. Maybe two of them get a personality.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mati

    Being judge Dee means to solve everything and from mere murder of the courtesan the deep and dangerous crimes evaporated like chloroform. It was getting more and more complicated during the book and more characters were introduced before the grand finale, when everything was solved.THe evil was uncovered and killed off. Simple. It was enjoying to read it.Nice historical detective story from fancy place and time. I think I will try another from this author.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    In this tale, we find Judge Dee in his younger days as a new magistrate in Han-yuan. Three cases, all intertwined, make up the bulk of this novel. Murder, revenge, love, conspiracies, the hunger for power, courtesans, and bandits all make appearances. Solid writing, but the plot is the sort where you really do need the "And this is how I figured it all out" exposition at the end to really suss it all out. Otherwise, a fine effort and enjoyable read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Chung

    another gems from the author. This involves national security for Judge Dee in his new district. Judge Dee was against a powerful sect , white lotus. He had no friends whom he can turn to fir help. I like the intense feeling in this story. what I don't like was the first chapter. I can't seems to grasp is it about current event, past or was it just a dream. Another thing I didn't like is that Judge Dee had saved the country and yet higher up didn't was not appreciative enough.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I loved the idea, but I don’t think Robert Van Gulik’s mysteries are for me. I did enjoy this Judge Dee novel more than The Phantom of the Temple. The plot was more intricate and there was an attempt to present some stronger female characters. Still, Van Gulik seems to delight in including sordid details that add very little to the story as a whole.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kucharski

    A murder of a courtesan spins into political intrigue. Also in this book Tao Gan, a member Dee's inner circle, is introduced. Interesting ending that gives light to the political atmosphere of the times.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Based on a real life person. Several crimes all intertwined. As a magistrate, the protagonist is allowed 4 wives so the personal life of the character is also very interesting. Feels authentic because of the description of the life and times of that period of history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie

    I have read this story many years ago. I really did not remember it so this reading was completely fresh. Chinese Magistrate in 666AD pursuing bad guys with his trusty talented taking care of business.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Writerlibrarian

    High treason mixed with kidnapping with a dash of conspiracy. Judge Dee has its hands full as soon as he steps into his new assignment. This tale takes the reader to a whole other world and time but human nature doesn't really change. Not really. Another really good mystery.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy H

    I like these old mysteries from Robert Van Gulik featuring Judge Dee. This one, as usual, has a complicated plot with several seemingly unrelated murders that really are entangled, with Judge Dee having to figure out several ingenious things that almost kept him from solving them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Toothy_grin

    Enjoyable detective stories set in seventh-century China.

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