Archive for 'Van Gulik, Robert'
It is sometimes a disappointment to read a book by an author you know is dead. If you like their books, you have to temper your enthusiasm for them because you know that there will never be any more. So it is both good and bad that I enjoyed The Emperorâ€™s Pearl. Robert Van Gulik did, in fact, die the year I was born. But before that, he was a Dutch diplomat and authority on Chinese history and culture. He created a series of mysteries based on the historical figure of Judge Dee. According to the postscript, Judge Dee lived from 630 to 700 A.D. and is regarded by the Chinese as their master-detective, his name as familiar to them as Sherlock Holmesâ€™ is to us.
This is an interesting book in several respects. As readers of historical mysteries know, these stories are always screened through the modern sensibilities of the author. But the other interesting factor is that the â€œmodern sensibilitiesâ€ of the author were those of forty-some years ago. So, as a reader, you find yourself questioning aspects of character and plot and weighing them against the 1000+ year-old Chinese history and mystery traditions and against the styles of mystery novels written 40+ years ago to determine which parts of the book are more influenced by one versus the other. Well-read readers will also recognize some lovely hints of classic mysteries of the 30â€™s and 40â€™s, especially near the end of the book.
The Emperorâ€™s Pearl is representative of mysteries of an earlier age and doesnâ€™t have the character development that we have come to expect, so some readers will be disappointed. I would say, however, that this book holds up remarkably well and is interesting throughout.
Did I guess it? No. If you are trying to guess this mystery, make sure you keep the characters straight! The reader relies on cues from the author to do this, but all of the characters in this book have short one or two syllable names and I found myself having to work to remember who was who, hampering my efforts to figure out whodunit. Will I read more? Yes. All eleven of them.
Mystery Book Reviews by Reviewed By Liz.com Â©2006