What an astounding experience! The Corpse Reader is a smooth journey from start to finish. This story transcends the meaning of historical novel. The plot is well-developed, and the characters are well written making this book a delight to read.
In the beginning, Ci Song’s tale opens with a murder which takes place after Ci and his family come back to the village of their origins as Ci’s grandfather had died. Social conventions deemed appropriate a two-year mourning period (at the grandfather’s house). Ci was chafing to go back to the city and resume his education at the school. Getting into a college is tough, but it is a lot harder in 1206 AD in China, especially if one lives and works on a farm in a small village.
It is while the family is reeling from the shame of Ci’s brother’s actions that a lightning bolt hits their house killing his parents. Third (named as she is the third daughter in the family) and Ci are left homeless and orphans. Ci and Third go off, so Ci can pursue his dream of an education all the while knowing he had taken money under false pretenses and that it is just a matter of time before the authorities catch up to him.
This is a wonderful story; it is rich in details, great drama and tension. At the end of the story is a glossary and an author’s note which provides the exact details of Ci Song’s life. I’d also like to point out the translator, Thomas Bunstead, did a marvelous job as well. Seldom have I seen a translated novel read so effortlessly, and I’m sure this due to Mr. Garrido and Mr. Bunstead for both creating and crafting the words to bring this historical novel into existence. This is one book I could not walk away from, and I know you won’t be able to either.
Set in Song Dynasty China, and intensely researched (the author even helped perform a real autopsy!), THE CORPSE READER follows the life of Song Ci, a man thought to be the father of modern CSI-style forensics.
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.