As the months went by, Cí learned to tell the differences between accidental wounds and those brought about in an attempt to kill; among the incisions made by hatchets and daggers, kitchen knives, machetes and swords; between a murder and a suicide.
Cí, a young scholar-turned-gravedigger in medieval China, has survived enough horrors and pain to last several lifetimes. He finally has the chance to return to his studies – only to receive orders from the Imperial Court to find the sadistic perpetrator of a series of brutal murders. With lives in jeopardy, Cí finds his gruesome investigation complicated by his old loyalties – and his growing desire for the enigmatic beauty haunting his thoughts. Is he skilled enough to track down the murderer? Or will the killer claim him first?
The Corpse Reader is a great historical fiction novel based on Song Cí, who is thought to be the Founding Father of Forensic Science in China. It offers the reader a look into medieval Chinese culture and how that effects a person’s decisions and actions. With this in mind I found the story to be one that I could relate to. At times I forgot I was reading about people who lived almost 800 years ago, they seemed like modern day people that I could relate to.
This book as really well paced. I couldn’t put it down and wanted to know what was going to happen next. With all of the tragedies that Cí goes through I was excited for him when he finally got into the Ming Academy to study like he had wanted to from a very young age. It also made me want to know more about the real Song Cí. I found that the more I knew about the real man the more I understood the character Cí.
The plot was well thought out and really intriguing. I found the use of Cí’s investigations and how he reacted to the people and situations he was placed into, to be really thought out. He wasn’t put into situations that he wouldn’t be able to use his intellect to get out of. This is a story of a strong man who knows that to find the truth, no matter what the consequences, is the most important thing in life.
The characters are multi layered and full of nuances. You could see each of them as if they were walking the streets of the medieval Chinese city of Lin’an, the Imperial Palace, the Ming Academy, and the Water Lily Pavilion. You could tell that Antonio Garrido did a lot of research into the historical characters that he uses. Cí’s interactions with his sister are so touching and you could tell that in real life he was probably the same caring person as he is portrayed in this book.
The writing in this book has a really good flow and the narrative of the story took me to a different world. The translation by Thomas Bunstead from the original Spanish is flawless. Usually with a translated book it is sometimes hard to read, but not with The Corpse Reader.
This book tells a great story. It combines history with a modern day murder mystery. You find yourself working out the details of the mystery with Cí and wanting him to expose the villains in this story. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a good mystery. Even if you don’t like the historical aspect of the book you will definitely love this one. The feel is more modern and with all the CSI shows on TV you can follow along with Cí as he solves the crime.
Antonio Garrido is a native of Spain, a former educator and industrial engineer. He has received acclaim for the darkly compelling storytelling and nuanced historical detail that shape his novel The Corpse Reader. This novel represents the author’s years of research into cultural, social, legal and political aspects of life in the Tsong dynasty, as well as his extensive study of Song Cí’s own five-volume treatise on forensics.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Stephanie