Poets and Murder

Poets and Murder

First edition (UK)
Author Robert van Gulik
Series Judge Dee
Genre Gong'an fiction, Mystery, Detective novel, Crime
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 174 pp
ISBN 9780434825578
OCLC 34722109
823/.914 20
LC Class PR6057.U45 P64 1996
Preceded by Necklace and Calabash
Followed by None

Poets and Murder is a gong'an detective novel written by Robert van Gulik and set in Imperial China (roughly speaking the Tang Dynasty). It is a fiction based on the real character of Judge Dee (Ti Jen-chieh or Di Renjie), a magistrate and statesman of the Tang court, who lived roughly 630700.

The book features eight illustrations by the author along with a detailed layout of the residence where the action takes place.

Poets and Murder was the last Judge Dee novel written by Robert van Gulik. He completed it just before his death from cancer in 1967. The book was published one year after his death.

Plot introduction

Judge Dee is a magistrate in the fictional Poo-yang district, a wealthy area through which the Grand Canal of China runs (part of modern-day Jiangsu province). During the mid-autumn festival in the city of Chin-hwa, Judge Dee is a guest of a small group of distinguished scholars. However, he learns during dinner that a young girl has been murdered and the accused is a beautiful poet. She is thought to have whipped her maidservant to death, but why? Then the body of a student is also discovered.

Poo-yang was the setting for many Judge Dee stories including: The Emperor's Pearl, The Chinese Bell Murders, Necklace and Calabash, and The Red Pavilion.

The book was also published in the US under the title of The Fox Magic Murders.


The case of the poetess is based on a real case, concerning Yü Hsüan-chi.[1]


  1. van Gulik, Robert (1968). Poets and Murder. Heinemann. p. 174. LCCN 68140989.

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