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The Corpse Reader [Kindle Edition]

Antonio Garrido , Tom Bunstead
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (761 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
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Book Description

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.

In 2012, The Corpse Reader received the Zaragoza International Prize for best historical novel published in Spain (Premio Internacional de Novela Histórica Ciudad de Zaragoza).

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Song Cí, the real-life 13th-century Chinese “founding father” of forensic medicine, has ample opportunity to display his genius in this digressive historical from Spanish author Garrido (La Escriba), his first novel translated into English. Some people in his rural village try to take advantage of the young Cí, with the result that he constantly finds himself in trouble, often betrayed and seemingly doomed to be cast out from any brief haven he finds. At age 16, Cí moves with his family temporarily to the imperial capital of Lin’an, where he gets his medical training in the Fields of the Dead (the cemetery); at the feet of his father’s boss, Judge Feng; and at the Ming Academy, where Professor Ming champions him. When Emperor Ningzong recognizes his talents, Cí is charged with solving a series of puzzling murders that enmesh him in palace intrigues. Garrido’s impressively detailed descriptions of daily life and Cí’s innovative methods offset his hero’s overlong, overdone tribulations. Reviewed May 2013.

From Booklist

Inspired by the story of Song Cí, the Song Dynasty Chinese official whose handbook for coroners, Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified (1247), may be the first treatise on forensic science, The Corpse Reader envisions the young Cí as a gifted action hero who, beset again and again by pitiless foes, survives through his uncanny ability to analyze crime scenes. It is a story defined by its mysteries: Did Cí’s older brother really commit the crime to which he confessed? Who is the brutal killer behind the strange and gruesome murders in the Imperial Court? Should Cí trust Feng, the kindly man who once employed his father, or Ming, the powerful scholar with questionable intentions? And what should we make of Blue Iris, the beautiful blind courtesan? The core of the story, of course, is Cí’s forensic investigations, which resemble an episode of CSI: Song Dynasty; the rest of the time, Garrido’s narrative veers into outright melodrama with its sudden twists, dramatic reversals, and exaggerated emotions. But the overall originality of the premise, and Garrido’s dogged commitment to historical and scientific detail, makes it easy to forgive such excesses. Reviewed April 15, 2013.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1717 KB
  • Print Length: 494 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612184367
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossingEnglish (May 28, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AB09KGO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,160 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy CSI whodunnit March 13, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A fictional novel inspired by a real-life man, "The Corpse Reader" is a solid mystery for those CSI fans who want a change of setting. Ci Song is a student with his whole life ahead of him until his family is dishonored and Ci looses everything important to him. Still possessing his forensics skills, Ci works with a con-man, identifying the causes of death until word of his ability brings him to the imperial palace to help solve a string of murders.

This is a mystery for people who love mysteries: a good length, full of twists and intrigue, a focus on details while still possessing a fast pace. While it was too long to be a one-sit read for me, it was a book I couldn't wait to pick up again and required no effort to get back into. Whether due to the translation, original intention, or both, there's a lot of modernity to writing. This bothered me a bit, but made the plot no less absorbing and I imagine many readers will prefer it that way. The historical fiction quality takes a back seat to the pure plot of mystery, so don't expect to be easily transported to twelfth-century China.

But for those who are looking largely for an intriguing murder mystery with all the right trappings and twists with a little bit of historical flair, this will be appreciated. I don't recall the last time I read a mystery I enjoyed so much. Definitely recommended.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Fiction of a Historical Genius March 9, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Song Ci (宋慈) was a real life forensic medical expert during the medieval period of China and is considered the Founding Father of Forensic Science. He wrote a book about his findings called Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified which has been translated into English and several other languages. The author of this novel had taken an interest in this historical figure and created a fictional account of his life and beginnings.

The character Cí, in this novel strives to learn about human anatomy and buries himself in his studies. He is forced to return to farm life after his grandfather dies and there is where his life becomes a series of experiencing one bad fortune after another. The book is definitely interesting and contains a series of twists. The author obviously did plenty of research of the time period for this book. I do think there may be times where the author has confused Mandarin and Cantonese, which some people (language students like me) will notice.

Ci finds himself in and out of the forensic world. Sometimes acting as a charlatan for a fortune teller to eventually working for the Emperor himself. The people he comes in contact with during his travels are varied, from deviant huskers to true friends.

Anyone who is interested in criminal investigative type stories and what happens to the human body after we die, should give this a read. This is definitely an entertaining book and gives a different view of the CSI world for fans of CSI Miami or the BBC's Copper. Fans of Chinese history will also enjoy this novel.

The end of the book has some information on how the author became interested in this subject and some background on the Song Dynasty. For those wondering, the story is almost 500 pages. My only complants about the book are the discrepancies in language and the fate of one of Ci's adversaries was never revealed. Perhaps this is because the author is planning on writing a sequel.
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98 of 112 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like this book May 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This novel is right up my alley. I love historical fiction and love detective stories. I am a big fan of van Gulik's Judge Dee stories. I wanted to like this book. I didn't.

There were three key things keeping me from liking the story. First, though Garrido clearly has done his research and knows his subject intimately, there are plenty of weird anachronisms. For instance (not spoiling much), the sisters are said to have suffered a genetic disorder. Wouldn't it be simpler and more in context to refer to them as having been cursed with a wasting disease?

Second, I found the main character unlikeable. He is clever, but profoundly stupid. He is someone who should know manners and protocol, but consistently violates them - not in a bad boy can't be bothered with niceties way but rather in a bull in a china shop clumsy way. Though he mourns the loss of his family, he shortcuts rituals of mourning and doesn't seem to grieve much at all. I briefly wondered whether the author intended to portray him as someone with Asperger's, but I think it was just that the character lacked warmth, social skills and common sense. He also made the same errors time and again, trusting when his motto should have been "trust no one." I found myself feeling little sympathy for him.

Finally, the story failed me. It was fairly obvious what the motive was and who was guilty about halfway through. It was painful watching the hero blunder his way through. And, in the end, the resolution was sloppy.

I wish I could have written a more positive review.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great topic - poor writing June 28, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As an English teacher, I am perhaps a harsher critic than others, but I felt this novel could have been much improved by the use of more mature storytelling skills. In fact, I used this book as an example for my students of how not to put your sentences together! There were far too many short choppy sentences and not enough figurative language to keep the story interesting. Additionally, the plot lacked plausibility and there was simply far too much drama; consequently, more imagery and less ridiculous plot turns would have greatly improved the novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read from Antonio Garrido
Five stars for The Corpse Reader! I loved this novel about the founder of forensic medicine! Set in China. It is rich in details about about solving murderous crimes. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Linda M Kenney
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed reading about ancient China
This book is a page turner. I could not put it down! I learned so much about ancient China and will read this author again.
Published 16 days ago by littledutchgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars A great whodunit set as historical fiction
This is a great mystery novel about a real person - Ci Song, a Chinese scholar/doctor/sheriff of the early 13th century who was the first CSI. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Dick
5.0 out of 5 stars Hold on to your hat as you follow the story ...
Hold on to your hat as you follow the story line. Very difficult to guess the ending. Definitely keeps you guessing.
Published 24 days ago by Jean Clore
5.0 out of 5 stars The Corpse Reader
Very good book and very suspenseful
I would recommend it to anyone that likes a book with a lot of mystery
Published 26 days ago by Renee Salvatore
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for a first time novel
Not bad for a first time novel. Plenty of action and a very good story line. Had no idea the main character was a real person. Read more
Published 29 days ago by dusty
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 1 month ago by Andrea
5.0 out of 5 stars 8th Century China Meets CSI!
Think 8th century China meets CSI. Interesting, informative and well written.
Published 1 month ago by Dee Worthington
4.0 out of 5 stars The Corpse Reader
An excellent mystery that takes awhile to develop the characters. Reminded me of an historical novel because descriptions were very complete. I enjoyed it.
Published 1 month ago by kentp
3.0 out of 5 stars Was not sure at times whether the book was written ...
Was not sure at times whether the book was written for an older teen or for adults in its style. Interesting read and historically based, but not top quality writing overall.
Published 1 month ago by steve van campen
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More About the Author

A native of Spain, a former educator, and an industrial engineer, Antonio Garrido has received acclaim for the darkly compelling storytelling and nuanced historical details that shape his novels. Each is a reflection of the author's years of research into cultural, social, legal, and political aspects of ancient life. Garrido's The Corpse Reader, a fictionalized account of the early life of Song Cí, the Chinese founding father of forensic science, received the Zaragoza International Prize (Premio Internacional de Novela Histórica Ciudad de Zaragoza) for best historical novel published in Spain. His work has been translated into eighteen languages, and The Scribe is his second publication in English. Garrido finds his inspiration when he writes in his studio at the Cullera bay, watching the deep blueness of the Mediterranean Sea.

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