Judge Dee, as many readers already know, was a real magistrate who lived in ancient China from 630 A.D. to 700 A.D. and is the central detective in a large series of crime novels and short fiction by Dutch diplomat-author Robert Van Gulik (1910-1967). This book, THE MONKEY AND THE TIGER (1965), contains two novelettes that are very clever fair-play mysteries.
THE MORNING OF THE MONKEY, the first novelette, involves the murder of a middle-aged man who is found with four of his fingers cut off. The monkey in the title is a gibbon that came swinging into Judge Dee's garden with an emerald ring in one hand. After Dee tricks the gibbon into dropping the ring, he notices blood stains inside it--and the case begins. Within a short time Judge Dee discovers the dead owner of the ring in a small hut halfway up a nearby mountain. Thereafter, some of the clues are gathered by Dee himself and others by an assistant named Tao Gan, who is quite clever in many ways and who has many theories of his own. Most readers will be able to figure out one-third of this mystery, a few will be able to get two-thirds of it correct, but rare indeed are those who can match Judge Dee's abilities with this Puzzle.
The second novelette is THE NIGHT OF THE TIGER, which begins with Dee traveling south to a new position during a bad flood and being trapped, without his armed escort, on a small temporary island of high ground. One problem is that a gang of bandits is also on that island; another is that a young woman has apparently died of a heart attack--or perhaps been murdered--in the fortified country house where Judge Dee finds refuge and spends the night. On several occasions Dee, who is put up in her bedroom for the night, wonders if he could be seeing or hearing the dead woman's ghost. Could this be true? Could he be over-tired or dreaming? Again Dee investigates, and the clues are all there. And while most readers can solve what half of the clues mean, very few will be able to make proper sense of them all. And what about those bandits, who are preparing to attack at dawn with a huge battering ram?
Are YOU willing to accept the challenge?
Finally, both these Puzzles have what I'd call "value added": not only can you test your wits against those of detective Judge Dee and author Van Gulik, but you can also experience some of the sincere melancholy and compassion that Judge Dee feels as he peels back the many layers of people's character and examines their diverse strengths and weaknesses in detail during his investigations.