Wednesday, the 6th of May–time once again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

Today my pick isn’t a book per se, but two short stories by Robert Van Gulick which I found free on kindle–Murder in Ancient China. The stories feature Judge Dee, imperial magistrate, inquisitor and public avenger. These stories are part of a series of full-length mysteries by the author featuring the same character. Judge Dee or Detective Dee as he is known in the movie versions is based on a historical character Di Renjie, an official who served in the Tang and Zhou dynasties, serving twice as chancellor.

Di Renjie

Robert Van Gulik, Dutch diplomat, came across an eighteenth century Chinese detective novel Dee Gong An which he translated into English. After this, he began creating his own stories on the same lines with the same character, which were published as a series; the first of these was The Chinese Maze Murders published in 1950. The original tale dealt with Judge Dee solving three cases simultaneously, and without any element of the supernatural.

In this set of stories, Judge Dee finds himself solving in the first the case of an elderly poet murdered by moonlight in his garden pavilion, and in the second a mystery on the eve of Chinese New Year.

I”d heard about the Detective Dee/Judge Dee stories and was interested to explore them especially because of the setting in ancient China. The historical Judge Dee lived between 630 and 700. Mysteries are of course one of my favourite genres, and I thought this offering on Kindle would be a good place to give these a try.

Do you like historical mystery series? Which are some of of your favourites? Have you read any of the Judge Dee stories? Which ones and what did you think of them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Info on the book and the cover image are from Goodreads (here), the real life Judge Dee (and image) on Wikipedia (here) and Van Gulik also on Wikipedia (here).

2 thoughts on “Shelf Control #89: Murder in Ancient China by Robert Van Gulik

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