Judge Dee at Work by Robert van Gulik Book Review

499653I first became aware of the Detective Dee or Judge Dee (Judge Di) stories when I saw the movie Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon. It was a movie in subtitles but I enjoyed the mystery and fantasy so I watched the next movie Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. It reminded me a lot of the Sherlock Holmes stories in that Detective Dee used clues and deduction to solve the mystery, mixed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type stunts. However, Dee doesn’t use science as his basis for discovery as Holmes did.

I found this book at the library on audio cassette. The books were actually based on old works found by Robert van Gulik in the 1940s at a Chinese second-hand bookstore. The stories involved cases of a semi-fictional character based on the historical figure Di Renjie, magistrate and statesman of the Tang court which dated back to 7th century China. Van Gulik translated the works and then began writing his own stories. This book contains stories van Gulik wrote.

It was a quick read (listen). It was kind of fun to try to guess the murderer. All the cases involved murder and Detective Dee always got the culprit. The only thing I was offended by, rather concerned about, was the frequent use of courtesans and prostitutes as characters. I’m not a scholar on ancient China, but I began to wonder if every woman was a courtesan or prostitute. Also, much of the time the crimes involved a scheming woman. So that wasn’t pleasant to read. But the mysteries were simple and enjoyable despite this. It was not vulgar but did mention some nudity. It was just something I couldn’t share with my 8-year-old who loves mysteries because she wanted to know what a courtesan was. I just told her it was a woman who learned many arts and poetry who was hired to entertain rich guys. That’s basically right.

I recommend this for mystery readers.

Rating 4/5

Beginning’s End (Shattered Skies #1) by Heather Linn Book Review


Beginning’s End Book One of the Shattered Skies series by Heather Linn begins with an alien invasion. But it’s not the kind we think of: little men with big heads. No, it’s something far worse, and humans ignored the warnings.




The aliens of Catalina’s world are vampires who have come to enslave, feed upon and breed with the human race. The product of vampires and humans are Dominus, who are virtually invincible because of the vampires’ careful planning. But will their over-planning be their downfall?




The first chapter caught my attention right away. Who is Catalina? What is her weapon against these creatures that are twice as fast, twice as strong and can survive in the daylight? And how did she just kill one?




The author’s world of the Shattered Skies series has pretty cool concept of vampires and what would happen if they invaded Earth. The main character Catalina is brash and tough. She is not satisfied with her lot in life and is out to fight for her freedom. But one night everything goes horribly wrong when she finds herself face-to-face with the king Dominus.




As far-fetched as the events in the book are, I kept reading. Catalina was an OK character. She was consistent. She was tough. She also was bit annoying, but not enough for me to stop reading. The other characters were one-dimensional. Some of them were stupid. I should say naïve. OK. Some were naïve and some were down right stupid. But they did their job in supporting whatever Catalina took it upon herself to do.




The plot is sketchy. I kept waiting for something to be revealed and it never was. Nothing was really resolved and Catalina makes a mess of things. However, the background and the history were good. I think that’s why I kept reading, just waiting for that big reveal that never came. I was not satisfied with the ending.




The setting is basic. It plays a role in the “plot” but is not overly important.




This book has a lot of sexual content in it, so I’ll have to rate this for adults only even though the characters are barely out of their teens. It bordered on erotica in places so be aware.




Although it began with intrigue, the breadcrumbs left by Beginning’s End were not enough for me to follow into the next book of the series.




Rating 3/5


Unlucky Dip by Kate Tenbeth Book Review


Unlucky Dip by Kate Tenbeth is nothing like the Burly and Grim series she also writes. It is more for the young adult audience that begins with attempted murder.


Holly is celebrating her 15th birthday on a riverboat during a cold December night when her stepmother Sylvia chucks her over the railing into the Thames. After an intensive search, it’s feared that Holly may be dead. Some feign sadness (Sylvia) while others are devastated like Holly’s best girl friend, Georgie. As Detective Inspector Drummond takes on the case, Sylvia’s plan of an “accidental” death scheme may not be so brilliant after all.


Unbeknown to her stepmother, the detective, or the city, a young man named Jon has fished Holly out of the river and is nursing her back to health. They also don’t know that Holly has chosen to stay hidden as she pieces things together to take Sylvia down. This may not be the first time Sylvia has killed.


I enjoyed this quick read. The reader already knows the who, what, and when. We just have to follow Holly into the why and how to prove it.


Holly is a pretty resilient character. She is practical and handles her attempted murder as well as can be expected. She doesn’t go down easily and doesn’t fall apart. Jon is an enjoyable character. He keeps everything light as he and Holly delve deeper into Sylvia’s treachery. Detective Inspector Drummond is persistent and an unlikely softy when it comes to the people involved in his cases. But he is no pushover and justice will be served one way or another.


The plot is pretty transparent. Pieces are revealed to us fairly consistently. We’re just along for the ride wondering how Holly will prove any of her findings and if anyone will believe her. I thought Sylvia’s round about scheme was pointless once everything is revealed. It could have been stronger.


The ending is appropriate with only a few details that seemed far-fetched.


I recommend Unlucky Dip for a quick read with a bit of mystery and murder.


Rating 4/5

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