Monday, July 11, 2016

Murder in Ancient China: Two Judge Dee Mysteries, Translated by Robert Van Gulik

I haven't read Judge Dee before, so I was quite happy to find two of his stories released as an ebook. And since they're short, I thought I'd just review each individual story:

The Murder on the Lotus Pond

First line for The Murder on the Lotus Pond:

"From the small pavilion in the centre of the lotus pond he could survey the entire garden, bathed in moonlight. "

I should say before I start that I don't have any experience with Chinese mysteries. Apart from the TVB dramas "A Pillowcase of Mystery" and "Xi Yuan Lu", I have no idea what ancient China was like and how they solved crimes back then.

The first story was definitely interesting, and more like a Western mystery than I expected. It's got a twist, a almost super-sleuth, a beautiful young woman, etc. I guess some things really do transcend culture.

I thought Mrs. Meng was an interesting character - even though she's not the main character (not even close to it), she's essentially the hooker with a heart of gold character, and I would have liked to see more of her.

Murder on New Year's Eve

First line of Murder on New Year's Eve:

"When Judge Dee had put away the last file and locked the drawer of his desk he suddenly shivered."

Just finished the second story, and it's really very charming. I won't give the ending away, but I had a smile on my face at the end of it.

Oh, and the start, where they mention his three wives really reminded me of Xi Yuan Lu - specifically the ending of the first season, where Song Ci ends up with his two wives. And that's all I wanted to say - that I was reminded of it.

This story starts with what looks like a murder, and the lonely Judge Dee goes and investigates right away. And then... One thing leads to another hahaha. Really can't say without giving it away.

By the way, you really shouldn't read the starting note for this, because it does give the twist away. Or at least, that's what I thought when I read it after the story (didn't read it before).

Oh, and I realise that I'm really not used to how they transliterated the Chinese here haha. It's quite different from the hanyu pinyin that I'm used too.

That said, I would totally read more of Judge Dee. These stories are short and satisfying, and I would like to see if by reading more, certain characters would be more fleshed out.

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