Thursday, 30 May 2013

Book Review: The Corpse Reader by Antionio Garrido

Review Copy from Amazon Vine

The Corpse Reader
by Antonio Garrido
Amazon Crossing Publishng


After his grandfather dies, avid scholar and budding forensic investigator Cí Song begrudgingly gives up his studies to help his family. But when another tragedy strikes, he’s forced to run and also deemed a fugitive. Dishonored, he has no choice but to accept work as a lowly gravedigger, a position that allows him to sharpen his corpse-reading skills. Soon, he can deduce whether a person killed himself—or was murdered.

His prowess earns him notoriety, and Cí receives orders to unearth the perpetrator of a horrific series of mutilations and deaths at the Imperial Court. Cí’s gruesome investigation quickly grows complicated thanks to old loyalties and the presence of an alluring, enigmatic woman. But he remains driven by his passion for truth—especially once the killings threaten to take down the Emperor himself.

Inspired by Song Cí, considered to be the founding father of CSI-style forensic science, this harrowing novel set during the thirteenth-century Tsong Dynasty draws readers into a multilayered, ingenious plot as disturbing as it is fascinating.


This book was wonderful, so different to anything I've ever read before. Think of it more like a biography of Song Ci, rather than an outright mystery/crime book, although there are details of mysteries and crimes within.

It is set in medieval China, an era and place I am not too familiar with, but the book seemed to be researched very well as far as I could tell. There was nothing that jolted me out of the story for being too modern or not suited to the place. I loved finding out about all the different customs, such as why children's jackets had five buttons, and how many times you should refuse a gift before accepting it graciously. There were lots of little details like that which made the story come vividly to life.

In the first half of the book, poor Ci goes through as almost as many trials as Job, he suffers betrayals, humiliations, beatings, robbery and more as he tries desperately to re-enter the university and better his lot. He does finally get accepted at the university, but at great personal cost.

The second half of the book is when Ci attracts the attention of the emperor and is asked to help solve some gruesome murders The pace picks up quite a bit after that, but I wouldn't have said the first half was slow either, but just more sedate at times.

There are some violent moments in the book, as well as detailed descriptions of corpses and their injuries, not one for the squeamish, but you couldn't really have a book about a corpse reader without it.

It was a very interesting read with some fascinating facts on historical crime-solving and medieval China.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

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