The Chinese Gold Murders (Judge Dee Series)by Robert van Gulik, Donald F. Lach (Introduction)
In this, the second book in Robert van Gulik's classic mystery series of ancient China, Judge Dee must look into the murder of his predecessor. His job is complicated by the simultaneous disappearance of his chief clerk and the new bride of a wealthy local shipowner. Meanwhile, a tiger is terrorizing the district, the ghost of the murdered magistrate stalks the tribunal, a prostitute has a secret message for Dee, and the body of a murdered monk is discovered to be in the wrong grave. In the end, the judge, with his deft powers of deduction, uncovers the one cause for all of these seemingly unrelated events.
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The Chinese Gold Murders
A Judge Dee Detective Story
THREE OLD FRIENDS PART
IN A COUNTRY PAVILION;
A MAGISTRATE MEETS TWO
HIGHWAYMEN ON THE ROAD
Meeting and parting are constant in this inconstant world,
Where joy and sadness alternate like night and day;
Officials come and go, but justice and righteousness remain,
And unchangeable remains forever the imperial way.
Three men were silently sipping their wine on the top floor of the Pavilion of Joy and Sadness, overlooking the highway crossing outside the north gate of the imperial capital. Ever since people could remember, this old, three-storied restaurant, built on a pine-clad hillock, had been the traditional place where metropolitan officials were wont to see off their friends leaving for posts in the interior, and where they came again to bid them welcome when, their term of office completed, they returned to the capital. As indicated in the above-quoted poem engraved on its main gate, the pavilion derived its name from this double function.
The sky was overcast, the spring rain was coming down in a dreary drizzle that looked as if it would never cease. Two workmen in the cemetery down at the back of the hillock had sought shelter under an old pine tree, huddling close together.
The three friends had partaken of a simple noon meal; now the time of parting was drawing near. The difficult last moments had come, when one gropes in vain for the right words. All three were about thirty years old. Two wore the brocade caps of junior secre-taries; the third, whom they were seeing off, the black cap of a district magistrate.
Secretary Liang put down his wine cup with a determined gesture. He said testily to the young magistrate, "It's the fact that it's so completely unnecessary that irks me most! You had the post of junior secretary in the Metropolitan Court of justice for the asking! Then you would have become a colleague of our friend Hou here, we could have continued our pleasant life together here in the capital, and you -- "
Magistrate Dee had been tugging impatiently at his long, coalblack beard. Now he interrupted sharply.
"We have been over this many times already, and I -- " He quickly caught himself up and went on with an apologetic smile, "I told you that I am sick and tired of studying criminal caseson paper!"
"There is no need to leave the capital for that," Secretary Liang remarked. "Aren't there enough interesting cases here? 'What about that secretary of the Board of Finance, Wang Yuan-te his name is, I think, the fellow who murdered his clerk and absconded with thirty gold bars from the Treasury? Our friend's uncle Hou Kwang, secretary-general of the Board, asks the Court every day for news, isn't it, Hou?"
The third man, who wore the insignia of a secretary of the Metropolitan Court, looked worried. He hesitated somewhat, then re plied, "We haven't got a single clue yet to that scoundrel's where abouts. It's an interesting case, Dee!"
"As you know," Magistrate Dee said indifferently, "that case has the personal attention of the president of the Court himself All you and I have seen of it to date is a few routine documents copies! Paper, and more paper!"
He reached for the pewter wine jug and refilled his cup. All were silent. After a pause Secretary Liang spoke.
"You could at least have chosen a better district than Peng-lai, that dismal place of mist and rain, far away on the seacoast! Don't you know the weird stories they tell about that region since olden times? They say that on stormy nights the dead rise there fron their graves, and strange shapes flit about in the mist that blow in from the ocean. They even say that weretigers are still slinking about in the woods there. And to step in the shoes of a murdered man! Everyone in his senses would have refused that post if it were offered to him, but you even asked for it!"
The young magistrate had hardly listened to him. Now he said eagerly, "Think of it, a mysterious murder to solve, right after on has arrived at one's post! To have an opportunity right away for getting rid of dry-as-dust theorizing and paper work! At last I'] be dealing with men, my friends, real, living men!"
"Don't forget the dead man you'll have to deal with," Secretary Hou remarked dryly. "The investigator sent to Peng-lai reported that there was no clue to the murderer of the magistrate, nor to the criminal's motive. And I told you already that part of the file on that murder unaccountably disappeared from our Court's ai chives, didn't I?"
"The implications of that fact," Secretary Liang added quickly, "you know as well as we! It means that the magistrate's murder ha ramifications here in the capital. Heaven knows what hornets' nest you are going to stir up, and what intrigues of high officials you'll get involved in! You have passed all the literary examinations witi honors; here in the capital you have a great future before you And you prefer to bury yourself in that lonely place, Peng-lai!"
"I advise you, Dee," the third young official said earnestly, "to reconsider your decision. There is still time; you could easily plea a sudden indisposition and ask for ten days' sick leave. In the meantime they'll assign another man to that post. Do listen to me Dee. I am speaking to you as your friend"
Magistrate Dee noticed the look of entreaty in his friend's eyes He felt deeply touched. He had known Hou only for a year ...The Chinese Gold Murders
A Judge Dee Detective Story. Copyright © by Robert Van Gulik. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Robert Van Gulik was born in the Netherlands in 1910. He was educated at the Universities of Leyden and Utrecht, and served in the Dutch diplomatic service in China and Japan for many years. His interest in Asian languages and art led him to the discovery of Chinese detective novels and to the historical character of Judge Dee, famous in ancient Chinese annals as a scholar-magistrate. Van Gulik subsequently began writing the Judge Dee series of novels that have so captivated mystery readers ever since. He died of cancer in 1967.
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THE CHINESE GOLD MURDERS starts as Judge Dee is on his way to his first post, in Peng-lai. There he will discover not one, but three mysteries, including the murder of his predecessor. Also complicating matters, a missing bride and the disappearence of his chief clerk. This book introduces his new lieutenants, and other complications. This book introduces the reader to an exotic and interesting world, and is also historically believable. A great read and a great series. Highly reccommended!