Title: The Chinese Maze Murders: A Judge Dee Mystery
Author: Robert Van Gulik
And yes, the Chinese maze of the title is in fact Chinese, 7th century China in fact. The fact that the book was written in a Ming-style about a Magistrate who serves as detective, judge and jury in the Tang dynasty makes it one of the most unique mystery novels you’ll likely read.
These books are just refreshing. The action scenes aren’t big (but there are some), the pacing is very deliberate, the Judge himself never gets embroiled in a romance and the romantic subplots that do exist are always tied up in another crime (and not always in the way that you’d expect) and there is always an execution of some kind by book’s end. Always. The characters are interesting, the stories are interesting and it’s just a nice bit of fresh air. I’m not a huge fan of Western-style mysteries (at least not straight up ones) but I enjoy these because of the atmosphere they provide.
If you’re looking for something different, they’re worth a look, especially if you want a look into Chinese culture. Just look for them online or in libraries, they don’t tend to be carried by big box chains.