As in any Robert Van Gulick book, the excitement in the read is in learning about the culture. Where else can you learn about early Chinese culture? Especially about the salacious parts? Generally speaking, you will never guess the outcome of a Van Gulick novel. Van Gulick always plants at least three red herrings and a helping of mis direction before revealing who dune it. Following the twists and turns and the why and wherefores in this series is always fun.
My tests for a mystery are:
1. Does the author bother to gain your interest?
2. Do you identify with the protagonist?
3. Do you want to see the bad guy punished?
4. Does the plot involve you in it?
5. Can the author write?
Generally speaking Van Gulick accomplishes all that.