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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
This novel follows the life of Ci Song (or Song Ci), in thirteenth century China. When we first meet Ci, he is a young man who regrets the fact his father has left the capital city of Lin'an for the village, where he finds himself at the mercy of a bullying elder brother with no respect for learning. Through a series of tragedies Ci becomes a fugitive and finds himself on the run with his sickly little sister, Third. His ambition is to return to the Ming Academy, but he is an outcast with no prospects and is responsible for a seriously ill child. Ci has a gift to 'read' bodies, and an inability to feel pain, which results in his eventually being given a chance to become a scholar again. However, his life has many ups and downs, with all manner of betrayals, difficulties and loss to endure before the end of this novel. During his adventures he travels across the country by barge, works as a gravedigger, meets up with a con man, is resented, betrayed and cheated.

Although this is a mystery, there is much more to the book than just the crimes he is sent to investigate. More than half the book is taken up with Ci's life story before he is ordered to the Imperial Court, to find the murderer of several horribly mutilated bodies. If you are looking for a book with an unusual storyline and setting, which examines the life of this incredible young man who became the first ever forensic science expert, then you will enjoy this novel. It is amazing to think that even though Song Ci died in 1249, some of his innovations are still in use today and he completed the first scientific treatise on forensics in history. This really is an original read and I hope, with Song Ci being a young man at the end of this novel, that he will have more adventures in the future - this is calling out for a sequel.
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on 27 July 2014
I realise I am swimming against the tide here, but I thought this was a great book that had been smothered inside something really quite poor. The main character was possibly meant to be naive or too trusting, but in the end I got tired of 'everyone was against him/couldn't be trusted' as well as getting jaded with the never-ending series of disasters that he came up against - the catastrophes (largely of the character's own making) occurred just a bit too often for me.
The forensics and the descriptions of China were largely okay, but my antipathy towards the main character made me eager to be rid of the book. The writing was very simple (it read at times like a children's story book, apart from the number of dead bodies...) but that may be the translation and there were too many deus ex machina for my taste. Despite the unending stream of catastrophes, I didn't find much tension in the book.

Apologies if you really loved it. It did nothing for me at all and I was heartily glad to be done with it. I have left reviews before where I have disliked a book and then been slammed by someone else who has adored it, so I am now far more hesitant to leave a bad review (which makes me wonder if others are too? The reviews on Goodreads for this are slightly more evenly split between those who love it and those who don't).
If you loved it - great - everyone has their own tastes. This was not to mine, for the reasons outlined, but please do not post diatribes against me because I don't like what you like. Thank you.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Antonio Garrido has here made a gripping historical thriller incorporating real and fictional people. Based on the legendary Song Ci (or Ci Song if you write his name in our language) the creator of the 'Hsi Yuan Lu Hsiang I', which is really the world's first forensics manual as such. With novels and tv dramatisations of crimes being solved with forensics it is sometimes forgotten that this isn't that new an idea, although technology has now progressed and it is universally accepted.

The real Song Ci I don't believe much biographical information is available, so because of that the earlier part of his life is here fictionalised. Here we see Ci start off his life not too badly, but things take a sudden change with the death of a relative, and then other tragedies hit the family. Ultimately left to bring up his sickly younger sister Ci's life seems to have taken a drastic turn for the worse, with him having to abandon his ambitions, and finding that he is a fugitive. We follow him through his ups and downs, and when he is asked to look at a dead body by order of the Emperor he finds himself embroiled with the Imperial Court and its life.

This is well researched, bringing to life the 13th Century of China under the Tsong Dynasty, where the country is under attack from the North. If you are thinking that this is just another historical crime thriller though, you would be wrong. This story as such can be seen as a series of parts. Firstly you have the part with Ci growing up and caring for his little sister, which takes in some adventure, then followed by his being called in to look at a dead body. This in itself leads to other horrific deaths and Ci becoming caught up in the subtleties of court life, and then a part which is more like a courtroom drama. With so much happening this story pulls you in and holds your attention to the final page. With horrific murders, intrigues, obfuscation, rivalry, manipulation and greed there is a lot going on here that makes this great reading for those looking for something to get their teeth into.
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VINE VOICEon 7 May 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the story of Ci, a young man living in 13th century China. We first meet him living in poverty and discomfort in his brother's house, being bullied and tormented by his brother and longing to return to the city of Fujian. Because of the consumate skill of Antonio Garrido we are given a complete sketch of his early life, a vivid picture of his family and a dark, deep and edgy view of his present situation in the first chapter. I don't really know how Garrido does it but not once in this big, densely packed story do we get bogged down in tedious detail or explanations. Everything flows naturally from the thoughts and actions of Ci.

There is a LOT in this story, but it is tightly structured and carefully disciplined so that it never rambles. I would be hard-pressed to edit a single word out as nothing is superfluous yet it is so easy to read. So easy in fact that I wandered from living room to kichen still reading, I propped it up on the counter while I made tea, still reading. I read it instead of gardening, instead of conversation, I would have took it to work but I didn't dare as it would have pulled me back into those vivid, Chinese images. The book is full of beautiful and terible pictures all painted with words.

The court scene is brilliant, the tension is palpable and exciting and unlike many books with crime and punishment as a theme, you have no idea how it will turn out until the plot twists and sways its way to an unexpected conclusion.

Even the occasional sex scenes are brilliantly written, so many historical novelists seem to flounder badly once the bedroom door closes but Garrido does a great job there too.

If you like historical novels you will love this, if you like biography you will love this, and if you are a fan of CSI you will adore this.
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on 4 August 2013
To start with you feel sorry for Ci, then you get bored of feeling sorry for Ci, then things get interesting and then we see what Ci is made of. Although it's a story, it's based on real life and as such is really interesting to see how forensics have progressed from Ci in China in the 13th century (or whenever) to now. It is no wonder he is believed to be the father of forensics. It is a good story and the second half is much better so please get through the first half to get to the real story.
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on 30 May 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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 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 and 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.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Antonio Garrido's The Corpse Reader is a solid, if unremarkable, historical whodunit. The premise is nothing new - an expert pathologist makes incredible leaps of intuition to solve unsolvable crimes - but its setting is a little different. I've not read too many (any) novels set in thirteenth century China, and whilst the honour and form of Confucianism got a bit tedious every now and then, it makes an evocative setting for a murder mystery.

We follow Ci from the moment he finds a headless corpse in a field. His loathed younger brother takes the fall for the crime, with Ci being instrumental in providing evidence. After that, things only get worse. There really are very few people unluckier than Ci, and this continual struggle and misfortune did drag occasionally. The book is probably a hundred pages too long, and there is so much bad luck in here some of it could have been left on the author's hard drive.

The workings and machinations of imperial China are well realised, and Ci often finds his hands tied by convention as he attempts to solve a number of crimes. Forever trying to escape his past (detailed in the book), Ci has to keep one eye behind him at all times. This creates a nice tension in the book. Ci is the good guy who might just end up finishing last.

The book is easy to read, though the translation is felt a little clunky. There were a few times where certain phrases jarred or didn't quite make sense. There is very little that is remarkable about this book, but it's central story is interesting, there are a number of diverting side plots and the characters are well rendered. Many of them are stereotypes, but Garrido adds enough colour to each to make them interesting. A diverting crime novel, ideal for those who want a change of scene.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'll get the reasons why, for me, this wasn't a five star read out of the way first. I couldn't quite believe in someone who had so much bad luck and who was let down or betrayed by almost everyone who crossed his path. I found the violent aspects of the story were described in way too much detail for me and I found myself skipping the most violent scenes. I also thought the dialogue had too much of a flavour of the twenty first century.

That said, this is a well written historical novel about an unusual character and it makes a change to read about a more obscure period of history in a country which doesn't feature too much in historical novels published in the West - medieval China. Ci - the main character - does his best against the many misfortunes which befall him but while he may be very good at reading corpses and understanding how they died he is absolutely dreadful at reading the living people he comes across.

I did enjoy reading this book - it is an exciting story and the forensic science side of it is marvellously well done. It shows what knowledge was around at the time but which seems to have been forgotten or lost between then and the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The book - unusual for a novel - includes a bibliography and a biographical note about the main character as well as a glossary. If you enjoy something different in historical novels, or in historical crime novels then you may like this provided you don't mind graphic violence.
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on 1 December 2013
The Protagonist should be dead. Beaten, burned, stabbed, half drowned in an endless, tiresome procession of unbelievable events. This is the equivalent of buying a really poor DVD that appears to offer some historical perspective on some subject or other but turns out to be toe-curling scene after scene of awful choreographed martial arts moves. A shame really because the level of research required to give factual perspective on the history of forensics is impressive and would have been better served with a believable story line.
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on 27 June 2013
Perhaps this book lost something in the translation but I found it a very poor effort on what sounded like an interesting subject. I am still convinced the subject is interesting but the execution was poor. The book reads like a free amateur effort rather than the product of a professional writer. Avoid.
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