A Crime Story for the Year of the Tiger

Fate, or a chance convergence of two similar ideas?  It could be a description for the polar viewpoints regarding astrology.  Or for my reading Robert Van Gulik’s short story The Night of the Tiger synchronously with the start of the Lunar New Year, which for 2022 is the Year of the Tiger.

The Night of the Tiger is set in the wild north of China in the winter of AD676 and features as its main protagonist the Lord Chief Justice of China, Judge Dee.  Dee is a fictionalised version of the real-life Chinese official Di Renjie, who served during the Tang and Zhou dynasties, and who has become immortalised on Chinese TV in the series Amazing Detective Di Renjie and in film as Detective Dee in the series of movies directed by Tsui Hark.  Whilst van Gulik’s novels are fiction, many of his stories are loosely based on true-life cases of crimes from the period. 

In The Night of the Tiger, Judge Dee becomes separated from his usual entourage of soldiers and court officials, and is forced to seek sanctuary in a lonely, old fortified mansion, not realising that the country house is besieged by bandits and that there is a murder mystery to solve on the premises.  In a race against time, Dee requires all his noted powers of detection if he is going to solve the crime and save his skin, in an exciting story, told in van Gulik’s idiosyncratic style and enhanced by his own characteristic illustrations.

Judge Dee––and Di Renjie––was born in 630AD, another Year of the Tiger.  The characteristics of the ‘metal’ Tiger are numerous, amongst them sociability, impulsiveness, self-confidence, and determination, and Dee is found to be not lacking in these last two attributes in order to bring a potentially perilous situation to a successful conclusion.

Robert van Gulik relates other cases of Judge Dee in:

• The Chinese Maze Murders
• The Chinese Bell Murders
• The Chinese Gold Murders
• The Chinese Lake Murders
• The Chinese Nail Murders
• The Red Pavilion
• The Haunted Monastery
• The Lacquer Screen
• The Emperor’s Pearl
• The Willow Pattern
• The Monkey and the Tiger
• The Phantom of the Temple
• Murder in Canton
• Judge Dee at Work
• Necklace and Calabash
• Poets and Murder

© Fergus Longfellow

Dreamy and artistic Piscean Fergus Longfellow does not believe in horoscopes.

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