Read The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert van Gulik Online


A.D. 668Meet Judge Dee, the detective lauded as the "Sherlock Holmes of ancient China" — Fans of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will thrill to this reissue of the first volume in Robert van Gulik's classic Chinese Murders series. The Chinese Bell Murders introduces the great Judge Dee, a magistrate of the city of Poo-yang in ancient China.InA.D. 668Meet Judge Dee, the detective lauded as the "Sherlock Holmes of ancient China" — Fans of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will thrill to this reissue of the first volume in Robert van Gulik's classic Chinese Murders series. The Chinese Bell Murders introduces the great Judge Dee, a magistrate of the city of Poo-yang in ancient China.In the spirit of ancient Chinese detective novels, Judge Dee is challenged by three cases. First, he must solve the mysterious murder of Pure Jade, a young girl living on Half Moon Street. All the evidence points to the guilt of her lover, but Judge Dee has his doubts. Dee also solves the mystery of a deserted temple and that of a group of monks' terrific success with a cure for barren women....

Title : The Chinese Bell Murders
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060728885
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 262 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Chinese Bell Murders Reviews

  • Henry Avila
    2019-03-01 21:26

    All looks calm in the apparently little, peaceful, beautiful walled northern town of Poo-yang, by the Great Canal as the new magistrate Judge Dee his three wives, numerous children, four cunning lieutenants Hoong Liang, Ma Joong, Chiago Tai , Tao Gan and loyal servants arrive there. After the usual formal celebrations , meetings, a grand banquet held, seeing the leading citizens and taking over from his able predecessor Judge Feng, only one murder case active . Still that has been solved already, just the just decision, a death penalty punishment to be carried out ( cutting off his head). The Tang dynasty of China in the seventh century, demands lots of paperwork, ( the Chinese invented this useful material, in this ancient land hundreds of years before) everything in its proper procedural way, the Empire and Emperor demands it, Dee has many documents to read and write. The new magistrate spends the first night studying them, two big candles illuminating the crowded desk, in his private tribunal office, drinking many cups of hot tea, eating cake, hour after hour alone until past midnight. Nevertheless the careful judge feels somewhat uncomfortable, Wang Hsien-djoong an unwise student the imprisoned, suspected killer of his lover Pure Jade, the daughter of a poor butcher, on shabby Half Moon Street claims he's innocent, but they all say that ... A curious, vastly wealthy Buddhist Temple of Boundless Mercy has attractive many rumors, something doesn't seem proper, they the monks say that a statue of a goddess on the premise, will bring children to infertile married women visitors, the grateful couple sends an appropriate gift of value when a miracle occurs. The abbot Spiritual Virtue, tries to bribe the honest judge with six heavy bars of gold and silver when Dee begins investigating the nervous monks, his lieutenants feel uneasy. Another temple, this time a deserted Taoist religious structure with a demonic reputation, needs to be looked at thoroughly, Transcendental Wisdom. Some weird sounds at night are heard often, chilling screams, unnatural, inhuman voices, apparitions seen, ghostly, moving lights appearing ....the towns citizens are quite reasonably scared to enter the haunted building, even criminals. A rich merchant from Canton, Lin Fan, with a dubious background has been living in this provincial city for five years, why? An old woman gives the tired Judge Dee, aged manuscripts, written by her Mrs. Liang, of the brutal crimes committed by Lin but are they genuine... a blood feud between the Liang and Lin families, has continued for decades. The bright judge with the help of his friends, have much work to do cleaning up this "quiet city"... The never dull but always very interesting Judge Dee detective books, by Robert van Gulik a Dutch diplomat and scholar, has written a superb story, it is no surprise...

  • Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
    2019-03-09 20:45

    Excellent period mystery that draws on the Chinese detective story legacy and diplomat van Gulik's extensive scholarship. Reading this book was like stepping into a time machine and travelling back in time to imperial China, so well realised is van Gulik's portrayal of the era. Judge Dee, a magistrate, is given a new posting and proceeds to clean up the town. Cerebral and often downright inscrutable, he is aided by a cohort of close associates who range from a stalwart sergeant to a former con man and is not above a bit of roughhouse himself in a pinch. Imagine a less vain Hercule Poirot with Holmes' brawling skills and you have a good idea of the character of Dee. Each mystery is brought to a satisfactory conclusion and much time is spent exploring the seedier sides of like in 7th century China. I loved this book and look forward to reading more, although it's going to be a long quest as this whole series is out of print.

  • Jeanette
    2019-03-15 02:54

    Yes, I missed these completely. All of these Judge Dee books written 70 years ago or more. But I won't refrain from reading any I can presently find.This is Northern China in the 6th and 7th centuries and the Magistrate of the District is Judge Dee. The characterizations are spectacular and the nuance for the period and the context of the Chinese under the Confucian structures just phenomenal. THE DETAIL! And yet every personality differs and has dozens of surfaces to moment and placement.Fairness! Justice! Fighting the foul, evil deeded and more than both of those- the corrupt payments toward fraud and slimy allegiance. Judge Dee with his trusted mentor/assistant and his three main "lieutenants". Very good and highly entertaining reads. Translated from the Dutch, and if you find them? Do enjoy!Be warned. The punishments are quite apace to those of Renaissance Europe. Both creative and horrifically torturous.

  • Ivonne Rovira
    2019-03-19 21:27

    Admirers of Robert van Gulik's always delightful Judge Dee mysteries have another treat in store with The Chinese Bell Murders. In this novel, Judge Dee is newly arrived in the city of Poo-Yang, and he begins by re-investigating a case that his predecessor, Judge Feng, could not complete since Feng had had to leave when he was reassigned to a new posting. In that case, an impoverished literary candidate named Wang was on the verge of being executed for the rape and murder of a butcher's daughter; however, Judge Dee cleverly and immediately realizes that the real culprit was someone else! As in all Judge Dee novels, there are two more mysteries for Judge Dee to solve before the reader happily comes to the end: the case of a decades-long feud between two families who hail from Canton and some nefarious goings-on at a Buddhist temple. At the Temple of Boundless Mercy, barren women who spend the night, as often as not, later conceive. While the temple's abbot, who goes by the name of Spiritual Virtue, gives credit to the goddess Kwan Yin, Judge Dee suspects otherwise. Although in most Judge Dee novels the three mysteries are intertwined, in The Chinese Bell Murders, the mysteries stand alone and are solved consecutively. In solving all three crimes, Judge Dee is ably assisted by his loyal and enterprising staff: a longtime family servant turned sergeant, Hoong; two former highwaymen, Ma Joong and Chiao Tai (whom Judge Dee first met in The Chinese Gold Murders) and the former conman, Tao Gan (who joined Judge Dee in The Chinese Lake Murders). What a pleasure to meet up with Judge Dee and his lieutenants again! While The Chinese Bell Murders was the third book that van Gulik wrote, the novel ranks eighth chronologically. None of that matters, however, as -- unlike with some mystery series, which must be read in order so as to make sense -- readers will enjoy Judge Dee novels in whatever order they read them. Unlike most Judge Dee mysteries, The Chinese Bell Murders begins with an odd supernatural set-up. Readers new to Judge Dee should not let that put them off. The mysteries aren't the least bit twee, and all of the novels provide an illuminating glimpse into the 7th century China. Judge Dee is based on a real-life Chinese magistrate during the T'ang Dynasty named Ti Jen-chieh, a name van Gulik simplified to Judge Dee Jen-djieh. 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). As in the other novels, for the three cases in The Chinese Bell Murders, van Gulik took his inspiration from original ancient Chinese cases and 18th century Chinese detective stories, although van Gulik changes the case enough, removing much of the coincidence and supernatural elements so that he makes the stories his own.

  • Nancy Oakes
    2019-03-04 23:39

    Second in a series featuring the Tang Magistrate Judge Dee, based on a real magistrate during that dynasty. Dee has a series of retainers who assist him in his work. It is the case throughout the series that when Dee comes to a new town, mysteries present themselves for him and his friends to solve. Generally there are several mysteries that seem to be linked together somehow, and I take the utmost in pleasure to watch the crimes unravel. In his first case, Judge Dee finds himself in the Poo-yang district. Thinking himself lucky because there seems to be very little crime in this area, he is somewhat taken aback when he and his retainers have to deal with a rape/murder as well as several crimes all linked back to a feud between two of the district''s merchant families. But wait! There's more: it seems that there is some concern about certain Buddhist monks who are trying to swindle women who cannot get pregnant. If they give money to the temple, the women will supposedly conceive. No strand of the story is left undone; Dee's detection skills, along with the help of his group of friends, ensures that there will be no crime left unsolved whenever the magistrate comes into a new area. Highly recommended; do start with book 1 (the Haunted Maze) before you read the rest of the series.

  • Natalia
    2019-03-08 21:27

    Oh, this book was great fun. I am unfamiliar with the history of Chinese detective novels (Actually, I was completely unaware China had a history of detective stories at all - Though come to think of it, why not? Every society has crime, and sometimes there are mysteries that need solving.)I liked that there were 3 crimes solved in the book and that the timelines kind of overlapped. It felt much more realistic. In the real world, crimes don't happen one at a time, waiting for a magistrate to solve one before the next one occurs. I also really enjoyed Judge Dee's entourage - a little unsavory, but their motives are good.I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes police procedurals, but is feeling a little bored with novels about contemporary police detectives. It's a nice change of pace.

  • Carol Clouds ꧁꧂
    2019-03-14 20:40

    I loved van Gulik's elegant prose & the simple illustrations that were with this book. I found the construction of the book's plot a bit hard (there are actually 3 different crimes) but will be prepared for that if I read another book in this series.One criticism is that it would be very hard for the reader to solve the crime.

  • Pavlovsky
    2019-02-20 23:29

    Mezi špalky něco tenkého. Je to ještě raný Gulik, takže tam soudce Ti ukazuje svou fyzičku, mlátí padouchy a sám vstupuje do akce. Co se týče příběhů, tak opravdu nejsou moc komplikované, pokud není padouch jasný hned od počátku, tak rozhodně nepřijde šokující rozuzlení. V jednom je dokonce (spoiler alert) pachatelem náhodný tulák - což je věc, která je tak proti všem detektivním zásadám, že je už vlastně neskutečně originální. Ale ono to nevadí, protože na nějakých 150 stránkách jsou případy hned tři a do toho ještě spousta různých dalších detailů a popisů výslechů, mučení a poprav, takže na nějaké obří pátrání není čas. Stojí to na tempu a atmosféře staré Číny, která tu (alespoň na neznalého evropana) funguje a působí poměrně věrohodně. A i díky tomu, jak se příběhy odehrávají v cizím prostředí a ještě v historii, nezestárla série natolik, jako ostatní kriminálky z poloviny minulého století. Ale čtyři knížky z té série mi na nějakou dobu úplně stačily, zase si dám oraz.

  • Penny
    2019-03-15 22:30

    I really enjoyed this book, the first Judge Dee mystery I have read. The setting of Tang era China and the range of characters are all beautifully drawn and show the extent of van Gulik's scholarship and depth of his knowledge. There is none of the artificially historical in the place of the characters, the mystery is paramount and the setting, both time and place, just add to the enjoyment. Each of these interlinked mysteries is well plotted and enjoyable, everything is not what it seems at first and Judge Dee's intelligence and skill as he solves them makes them fun to read. He is a great character, thoughtful and intelligent, and his companions and family are also beautiful drawn.

  • Erik
    2019-03-13 21:49

    One of the best in the series. Judge Dee and his four assistants, Sergeant Hoong, Chiao Tao, Ma Joong, and Tao Gan, investigate three cases: a 20-year-old feud between two Cantonese families, a suspiciously wealthy Buddhist temple, and the murder of a young girl. Science fiction writers could learn a thing or two from how van Gulik subtly conveys to the reader how the world of ancient China works.

  • Frank
    2019-02-26 02:52

    Excellent historical mystery. I couldn't put it down. Plenty of twists and turns and great puzzles solved by the magistrate with the evil-doers getting their just desserts.

  • Janice
    2019-03-21 22:48

    Love the reasoning he uses to solve the crimes and the peek into life in 7th century China. Good character building.

  • Acacia
    2019-03-12 22:48

    This book is an amazing read! The way the plot is intricately woven around dynamic characters ought to be heralded as an example for mystery writers everywhere.

  • Sandi
    2019-03-21 00:44

    Have read 2 Judge Dee mysteries. The Chinese Bell Murders is the first of the series. Have really enjoyed both books!

  • Franz
    2019-03-14 02:26

    The best of the three Judge Dee books read so far. Maybe my comments about the language (of the first book read earlier in the month) had to do with the fact that it has been a while that I read in German, as I had less of a problem with the flow of words here ... on the other hand, the language of "Mord im Labyrinth" did feel unpolished and abrupt to a point of being at times irritating ... but not enough to make me stop reading ...I really enjoyed the stories in this book, and I did like that the author granted a glimpse into Judge Dee's personal life which made him much more "human". The last crime solved was particularly interesting as I did not really anticipate the relationship between two of the characters involved. Again, my copy is from the mid-80s. I do like the cover art of my edition much better - the black and yellow artwork by the author himself is striking. Of course, the mid-80s edition contains numerous illustrations by the author which add greatly to the books. Re-reading the books after maybe 30 years is fun ... as much fun if not more as I remember it to have been then ... I wonder if the new edition is a reprint only adorned with cover art that is more current state, or if the books have been re-translated from the originals ...

  • GrabAsia
    2019-03-18 23:43

    Another nice book in this series. By now the trend is familiar. Judge Dee arrives in his latest post and is confronted with an immediate case where the culprit seems clear, but the Judge disagrees. Along with this arrive 2 other cases. Often the cases are interlinked. They often involve a threat to the Empire. His able lieutenants, instructed by the Judge, do a lot of digging and unearth evidence. Judge Dee sees what other don't and is able to solve all 3 cases quickly. I don't know much about ancient China, but the authors account is very interesting. I have 10 more wonderful titles to read!

  • Jim Layman
    2019-03-15 23:54

    This volume is my first exposure to the Judge Dee saga. Van Gulik's interpretation is a fast paced, slightly sordid mystery. Indeed, women seem to fare poorly in the world of Judge Dee, primarily portrayed for their sexuality. Criminals are mercilessly tortured and executed. However, the interplay between the Judge and his assistants, alongside the cultural richness of the ancient Chinese tribunal are interesting.

  • Nancy
    2019-03-11 21:41

    I want this to be a movie.Maybe not live action.An animated movie would work fine.I want more!This is a genre of book I had not heard ofChinese Detective Story But not as in a Charlie Chan waybut in actual ancient China.

  • Alison Peters
    2019-03-11 01:34

    A Judge Dee mystery - good one with 3 different problems that he solves. Enjoy his 4 assistants and their antics. Looking forward to reading them all (again).

  • Leda
    2019-03-12 22:39


  • Bev
    2019-03-14 00:53

    This book, originally published in 1958, is actually set in the China of about the 17th century. Van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat and a well-known authority on Chinese history and culture. He drew his plots, settings, and character-development from Chinese literature--particularly the popular detective novels of the period. The story tells us of the adventures and rulings of Judge Dee in the early days overseeing the tribunal of Poo-yang. When he takes over the tribunal, he finds that there is one case which his predecessor has left him. It involves the brutal rape and murder of the daughter of Butcher Hsai. Pure Jade was found in her room and her lover has been accused and all-but convicted by the previous judge. But when Judge Dee reads over the court records and examines the witnesses for himself, he feels that there is more to the story than meets the eye. While he and his assistants search for clues to the real murderer, he also finds himself faced with rumors that the monks who inhabit the Buddhist Temple of Boundless Mercy, run by an abbot by the name of "Spiritual Virtue," may not be as virtuous as they seem. Their temple appears to be far more prosperous than a Buddhist temple should be and there is doubt that the marvelous "cures" for barren women are really as other-worldy as reported. And finally, there is the case of the deranged elderly woman who has tried for years to get justice for wrongs done to her family by an influential man of business. Is there truth to her ravings or is she just truly insane?I have to say that Van Gulik obviously know his stuff. He produces the China of the period with great detail and flair and I felt as though I were really in a tribunal of the time period. Full marks for historical detail and atmosphere. He also is very adept at writing in what purports to be the style of the period (and I can well believe it). However, I must also say that the style of the period is not to my liking. The assumptions of guilt and the phrasing of questions just don't sit will with me. I'm also not real keen on the whole "beat a confession out of the guilty party" thing. Judge Dee is an interesting character and I do like the way he reasons--and doesn't accept everything at face value, but I don't think this is a series that I could read a whole lot of. Two and a half stars (almost three).

  • Matt
    2019-03-19 21:28

    This is a very good and highly-entertaining mystery novel by Robert van Gulik, but he's not quite on his A-game here.For one thing, it's clear that van Gulik hadn't quite perfected his format at this point, borrowed from the Ming-style gong'an novels. It is true that Judge Dee has to solve three mysteries in this novel, having just arrived with his four trusty assistants in the fictional Jiangsu canal town of Puyang. But the Cases of the Half-Moon Street Rape-Murder, of the Secret of the Buddhist Temple, and of the Mysterious Skeleton, are completely unrelated to each other, and they are handled in a sequential fashion by the Judge and his assistants, rather than having to be solved together. This stands somewhat in contrast to van Gulik's more-practised later work, wherein the cases often turn out to be tangled together in interesting and frustrating ways (as is the case, for example, in the Lake Murders).However, this is made up for in spades as van Gulik tackles his wonted subject matter with gusto: beggars, fisticuffs, traps, puzzles, abandoned temples, misbehaving monks, scantily-clad (or unclad) singing-girls, and the twisted, tormented psychologies of those caught up in sordid webs of crime. And of course, half the fun is watching the Judge piece together elaborate scenarios, sneak out of the tribunal incognito, and capture criminals with elaborate ruses, mind games and sting operations - and he doesn't disappoint in the slightest in the Bell Murders. There aren't many characters outside the tribunal with redemptive streaks in this novel, unless one counts Shen Ba of the Beggars' Guild or the contrite Wang xiucai at the end of the Half-Moon Street case; even inside the tribunal, the headmen and constables are shown to be corrupt and lazy.At any rate, this novel is somewhat longer than the rest, but it is still a highly-enjoyable read and recommended to lovers of whodunits in this particular style.

  • Kathy Chung
    2019-03-03 21:29

    yes! I love this story. full of surprising twist and turn if event.Judge Dee taking over a new district had "inherited" a case of rape and murder from his predecessor. everything sound simple enough. he just have to impose some harsh punishment to get the prisoner to confess. but Judge Dee found something suspicious and seems to have opened a can of make it worse , there was a suspicious Sect that have great influence in the Capital . This sect seems to be commiting crime but Judge Dee had to handle the case with care least his life would have been in jeopardy. I love how the author msnaged to "handle" the situation without putting in too many "coincidences" in order to solves the cases satisfactorily.

  • Stacy
    2019-03-12 23:37

    This is my new favourite series. I HAVE to read more. The author brilliantly keeps a simple narrative while including casual references to the historical norms of the time-period. These are educational and seamless. The integrity of his main protagonist is revealed through the hero's side-kicks. These are endearing and entertaining, and I care very much for every one of Judge Dee's assistants. Their dynamics between one another, and in certain aspects of encouraging plot development, never once failed to entertain me. I laughed a few times, caught off guard by unexpected humour. A charming, sometimes gruesome tale that masters the best of the mystery genre while serving both as a literary model and historical document. Consider me a Dee-votee.

  • Amrendra
    2019-02-21 01:36

    This is a magical book. This is a class apart when it comes to adventure and detective fiction. The exploits of Judge Dee and the way he deploys his brain and his footsoldiers makes for wonderful reading set in the enigmatic terrain of ancient China abounding in Buddhist monastries, ancient bazaars, lovely towns and beautiful landscapes.Being the first book that I read, this book opened the windows of wonder to my young mind, thereby fostering the habit for reading which is such a blessing indeed. Thanks to my school DAV Kapildev, Kadru for having hosted amidst its rather humble library, this beautiful and rare gem of a book.

  • Malcolm
    2019-02-27 23:29

    This is one of a series of novels from the 1950s in the style medieval Chinese crime novels, and as such it is a fairly standard police procedural. I am not a big fan of the police procedural but this was quite engaging, fairly entertaining, even if over reliant on the sense of mystical insight of the enigmatic investigator so common in detective writing. I doubt I’ll be rushing to another, but enjoyable.

  • May
    2019-02-28 22:29

    Great Chinese-style detective story, and very convincingly portrays the attitudes of the Chinese in that time period. Of course, this traditional way of thinking irked my feminist sensibilities somewhat, what with all the "women should be subservient to men" undertones and general masochism going on in the book. Provides great insight into Chinese history and culture, while remaining rather entertaining at the same time.

  • Carla
    2019-02-26 01:54

    Exceptional presentation of another time and place. Judge Dee, besides being a magistrate, is also a detective. He's a character of infinite dignity, propriety, and sense of status. He's educated and privileged but his deft, practised handling of the many and various levels of society in his legal profession leads the reader into a fascinating peek into ancient China. His henchman, from a much lower level of society, balances and expands the historical reach of this series.

  • Betty
    2019-03-15 22:46

    I am especially fond of historical mysteries. So it is a mystery to me that it took so long to read one of van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries set in 17th c. China. A scholar and diplomat, van Gulik based his mysteries on old Chinese detective stories. The postscript gives the reader the basis for the format of the novel as well as the derivation of the three mysteries that Judge Dee solves in the novel. Clever deduction and interesting cultural observations made this a very entertaining read.

  • Pamela Mclaren
    2019-03-06 22:41

    I read this and several of the other Robert van Guilik Judge Dee mysteries several years ago and event today I remember how good they were and so different from the rest of that time mysteries. Perhaps its because its Asia, its a thinking man (i.e., like Sherlock Holmes) and it reflects the time period it is all about. These are not mysteries for everyone but if you like one, you'll want to ready more.