Monday, May 7, 2012
Judge Dee: The Night of the Tiger
"The Night of the Tiger" is a sort of T'ang dynasty version of one of those old-dark-house movies from the 30s, but it works well. Dee sleeps in the room of the owner's daughter, Kee-Yu, who was found dead earlier that day. Van Gulik's portrait of the girl is affecting; she's a person of breeding and taste, but also tormented by ill health and possibly morbid brooding. However, Dee discovers that not everything is as it seems, and in the end there's a nasty twist, but the forces of law and justice triumph at last.
I've always been haunted by Kee-Yu; she's relatable but also sad and pathetic. I find her taste and refinement appealing, even admirable, but she also serves as a warning of too much brooding. She has a love affair that ends badly, and it's sad because she was the object of unrequited yet noble passion by one of her father's trusted aides. In the drawing class I took last summer, we were experimenting with Chinese brushes one night, and instead of doing the usual still lifes, I did this little picture of Kee-Yu, looking at the moon and mountains from her balcony.
"The Night of the Tiger" is a nice little novella with some bits that I found personally haunting. Like the rest of the Judge Dee series, this is Required Reading.
Next in the Dee series: Dee tackles affairs in the capitol in The Willow Pattern.