Necklace and Calabash (Judge Dee Mysteries, Book 16)
Robert Van Gulik
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Brought back into print in the 1990s to wide acclaim, re-designed new editions of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee Mysteries are now available.
Written by a Dutch diplomat and scholar during the 1950s and 1960s, these lively and historically accurate mysteries have entertained a devoted following for decades. Set during the T'ang dynasty, they feature Judge Dee, a brilliant and cultured Confucian magistrate disdainful of personal luxury and corruption, who cleverly selects allies to help him navigate the royal courts, politics, and ethnic tensions in imperial China. Robert van Gulik modeled Judge Dee on a magistrate of that name who lived in the seventh century, and he drew on stories and literary conventions of Chinese mystery writing dating back to the Sung dynasty to construct his ingenious plots.
Necklace and Calabash finds Judge Dee returning to his district of Poo-yang, where the peaceful town of Riverton promises a few days' fishing and relaxation. Yet a chance meeting with a Taoist recluse, a gruesome body fished out of the river, strange guests at the Kingfisher Inn, and a princess in distress thrust the judge into one of the most intricate and baffling mysteries of his career.
its round top. 'Doctor Liang has arrived, Mother,' the young woman announced. The bed-curtains were parted just an inch, and a wrinkled hand appeared. A bracelet of pure white jade, carved into the shape of a curving dragon, encircled the thin wrist. The girl placed the hand on the cushion, then went to stand by the bolted door. Judge Dee put his box on the tabouret and felt the pulse with the tip of his forefinger. (Doctors are not allowed to see more of a distinguished lady-patient than her
distraction an occasional fishing trip on the river-a distraction to be indulged in only when business at the inn was slack. But there was a daily diversion, namely the sight of the adored Mrs Wei. The innkeeper's wife must have been about in the hall a lot, for according to the owner of the Nine Clouds she took an active part in the running of the inn. The cashier would have snatched every opportunity to start a conversation with her. Not too often, for his employer would see to it that the
holder with a few writing-brushes. The judge found that the counter had two drawers to the right of the cashier's high stool. He pulled the upper one out. It contained the inn's register, a jar of the thick brown gum cashiers use for sticking bills together, a wooden stamp reading 'payment received' and the red seal-pad belonging to it, and a package of blank sheets and envelopes. He quickly opened the second drawer. Yes, next to the abacus lay a red ink-slab, and a small cake of red ink. Beside
gangster, temporarily residing in this town.' Colonel Kang sat up. He asked tensely : 'How was it stolen, Excellency?' 'The gangster's superiors had provided the cashier with precise instructions as to how the necklace could be stolen from outside : namely, by swimming across the moat to the north-west watchtower, then walking along the ledge at the base of the north palace wall and scaling the wall, thus reaching the pavilion of Her Highness. The necklace happened to be lying on the
smoke, for tobacco and opium were introduced into China only a few centuries ago. Robert van Gulik