Reviews of The Shadow of the Empire by Qiu Xiaolong

The Shadow of the Empire

A Judge Dee Investigation #1

by Qiu Xiaolong

The Shadow of the Empire by Qiu Xiaolong X
The Shadow of the Empire by Qiu Xiaolong
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2022, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Book Summary

The legendary Judge Dee Renjie investigates a high-profile murder case in this intriguing companion novel to Inspector Chen and the Private Kitchen Murder set in seventh-century China.

Judge Dee Renjie, Empress Wu's newly appointed Imperial Circuit Supervisor for the Tang Empire, is visiting provinces surrounding the grand capital of Chang'an. One night a knife is thrown through his window with a cryptic note attached: 'A high-flying dragon will have something to regret!'

Minutes after the ominous warning appears, Judge Dee is approached by an emissary of Internal Minister Wu, Empress Wu's nephew. Minister Wu wants Judge Dee to investigate a high-profile murder supposedly committed by the well-known poetess and courtesan, Xuanji, who locals believe is possessed by the spirit of a black fox.

Why is Minister Wu interested in Xuanji? Despite Xuanji confessing to the murder, is there more to the case than first appears? With the mysterious warning and a fierce power struggle playing out at the imperial court, Judge Dee knows he must tread carefully...

ONE

'Honorable Judge Dee ...'

Dee Renjie, the newly appointed Imperial Circuit Supervisor of the Tang Empire, put down the routine report that had been submitted to him earlier in the day, stroking his white-streaked beard and shaking his head reflectively, as if at someone sitting opposite him across the rough, unpainted wooden table in the room of a dilapidated hostel. The hostel was located on the outskirts of Chang'an, the grand capital of the Tang Empire.

Dee was no judge. For the moment, however, he had no objection to people addressing him as such. It sounded far less impressive, further away from the center of the imperial power, though he was in no mood to do anything judge-like whatsoever in the midst of the ferocious political infighting around the throne.

In various official positions during his long, checkered official career, Dee had found himself involved, from time to time, in investigations – even when serving as the prime minister ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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While the author's descriptions of temples, scrolls and woodblock printing are fascinating, I yearned for more sensory details about food, drink, art and fashions of the day. The action can be weighed down with long passages of dialogue between characters, which sometimes slows dramatic tension. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed reading a novel where messages are delivered at the tip of an arrow, or are coded into poems handwritten with ink and pen. Travel in those times was by foot, carriage, or on horseback, and I was happy to slow down and savor an intricate mystery on a rainy day sitting by the fire...continued

Full Review Members Only (726 words).

(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[B]rilliant...Qiu combines a sophisticated puzzle with appropriate period detail, avoiding the anachronisms of previous Judge Dee fiction. Fans of those books, by Robert van Gulik and others, will clamor for more.

Kirkus Reviews
An elaborate and satisfying souffle of mystery, history, and poetry.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Tang Dynasty Poet Yu Xuanji (844-871)

Black and white line drawing of woman wearing a robe and holding a scrollChinese poetry has a long and varied history. The Tang Dynasty (from 618-907) is considered one of the most vibrant cultural periods for poetry and other arts.

In Qui Xiaolong's mystery novel The Shadow of the Empire, set during the Tang Dynasty, detective Judge Dee professes to be a poet, and much of the plot is driven by clues held in poems. Judge Dee's investigation revolves around Yu Xuanji (pronounced "Yoo Shan-chee"), a real-life poet and courtesan.

Fortunately for today's readers, many poems from the era have survived the centuries and been widely translated. The Chinese tradition of writing poems in ink either on paper or as part of a painting scroll is one reason that ancient poetry survives. Woodblock printing was invented ...

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