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The Willow Pattern - Robert van Gulik This wasn't my favorite Judge Deebook. I usually don't figure the mysteries out before the judge does, but I had this one pegged early on. There were several murders that needed solving this time, so it should have been difficult to figure these mysteries out. It really wasn't.

I also thought this book had a much heavier element of sexuality than many of the other Judge Dee books. There is often some sexual component to a Judge Dee novel, but I've not noticed such a heavy use of sex in the books up to this point. These books aren't typically odes to feminism, but this time every woman in the story was being used sexually. It just kind of got to the point where I wondered what was going on with [a:Robert van Gulik|243991|Robert van Gulik|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1234309210p2/243991.jpg] at the time he wrote this novel.

I did find the atmosphere to be darker and heavier this time around because Judge Dee's town was suffering from a Black Death epidemic. Van Gulik's decision to set this story against such dark times helped give this series a feeling of the passage of time. Public officials often have careers that span across good times and bad times, and choosing to have Judge Dee presiding at this time emphasized, I thought, the longevity of his career.