Friday, September 23, 2011

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An) (Detective Stories) trans. Robert Van Gulik

Judge Dee is a classic character in Chinese lit. Based on a real magistrate, the cases he solved and the legend surround him grew over the years. Think Sherlock Holmes, Perry Mason, and Law and Order all rolled into one guy.

In this book, Robert Van Gulik takes some Judge Dee stories that he thinks are the most accessible to Western audiences (so, no calling household objects as witnesses, which does happen in Chinese mysteries) and translates them. There's extensive introductory notes and footnotes, too. Van Gulik did this translation during WWII, when the war prevented him from doing his more academic research. I like that he found a way to

Van Gulik really wanted Judge Dee to find a Western audience. The original Chinese tales didn't take off as well as he hoped, so he wrote a bunch of new ones with Judge Dee as the main character. This, however, is an original Chinese one.

There are three murder mysteries in this book. I like how when he's working on one, another one pops up, so even though the mysteries aren't related, he's solving all of them at once.

In addition to the glimpses of Tang Dynasty life, and the traditional Chinese court system (detectives are judges, torturing a confession out is totally legit, etc) they're just intriguing mysteries with ingenious solutions.

Highly recommended to fans of Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and other older, classic mysteries.

I own most of the Judge Dee mysteries and can't wait to work my way through them.

Book Provided by... my bookshelf. Somewhere along the line I acquired used copies of most of Van Gulik's Judge Dee books.

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