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The Corpse Reader

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,570 ratings  ·  368 reviews
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 ...more
Kindle Edition, Reprint edition, 494 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by AmazonCrossing (first published October 5th 2011)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  3,570 ratings  ·  368 reviews

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Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Simultaneously ingenious, compelling, and frustrating. Garrido's historical fiction paints real-life Chinese scientist Ci Song as a Quixotic adventurer, whose problems are caused by equal parts bad luck and bad decisions. The first half documents a trouble-prone journey and you start to get angry at Ci's insistence on trusting the wrong people and making the wrong choice. The second half is much more interesting, opening up a complex murder mystery in the courts of ancient China. Ci may be a sav ...more
Anne Hawn Smith
I really enjoyed this book. It was so refreshingly new. It is set in the thirteenth-century Tsong Dynasty. It is based on the work of a real person, Cí Song, who is considered to be the founding father of forensic science.

The book starts out with Ci Song as a scholar who is supported by his grandfather who is a noted scholar. Unfortunately, the grandfather dies and Song is forced to return home and become subject to his crass and dissipated older brother. When a crime is committed, he is forced
Sep 14, 2013 added it
Shelves: abandoned, 2013
Everyone seems to love this book on Goodreads. Based on the description, I really thought I would, too. At first glance, it's right up my alley. But the author never met a deus he didn't try to machina.

Really, it was rather like having a date with the hottest guy--and I mean hot, really hot, in the dangerous, really good tattoos kind of way, which is the only analog for 13th century China, corpses, police procedural, and textual interpretation I can think of--you've ever picked up in
Sep 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Another book I expected to really enjoy, but ended up disliking.

Set in ancient China around a boy with a knack for forensics. So CSI - hundreds of years ago.

But I had several problems...

First, the hero was supposed to really, really smart. But he wasn't. Most of his giant leaps of inspiration were stupid. And what's worse, most happened because the person he was talking (working against) was an absolute idiot. (The interaction over the sale of his brother's la
Diane S ☔
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 A very interesting look back on the 13th century and the Tsong Dynasty and a character names Ci, named after the famous Song CI, who is considered the forefather of the modern day CSI style of forensics.
One of the most notable thing about this book, is that the translator has done such a marvelous job that the story just flows very naturally. This is not always the case with translated novels and so often the translations can ruin what is actually a good story. The story itself is very
April Hamilton
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for The Corpse Reader, which was described as a tale of rudimentary forensic science being employed by a bright young peasant in imperial China, but I think I'm gonna quit it. A decapitation is revealed in the foreword, the protag's brother looks guilty but there's something fishy afoot, and from there on in it's just been one crisis after another for the protag as he sets his mind to clearing the brother's name. I usually LOVE historical fiction and I'm fascinated by the histor ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: why-the-hype
tbh I wanted to give it a lower rating, but I liked the 50last pages.

My princepal grief with this book is that it is so damn long, and the writing is just meh. I couldn't like Ci, I couldn't find him intersting or smart, same with the others characters. It just felt flat.
I also didn't learn a lot about middle age China.

Two words : disappointing and laborious.
I found this book in a bargain bin and thought it sounded interesting. A crime novel set in historical China? Sign me up!
Now I'm just glad I found it in a bargain bin, because otherwise I'd probably be a lot more disappointed.

Cause you see, the back of the book promised me a thrilling story about murder in the emperor's palace. That's what I wanted to read about!
Instead what I got was the tale of How Ci Has The Worst Day Of His Life Everyday. Literally everything in this dude's life that co
Patrice Hoffman
I have finished The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido and am excited about this novel. The Corpse Reader tells the story of Ci Song, a young scholar who's been dealt the worst hand possible. I really don't want to give too much away in regards to his family and why he must flee but the story is harrowing and only someone as bright and resourceful as Ci is able to overcome the odds set up against him.

While trying to stay incognito and escape the authorities, Ci finds work as a gravedigger where h
Annette Gisby
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical, crime
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 abo
Jan McClintock
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a historical mystery set in 13th-century China, with a hapless young hero whose fortunes start out poorly and just go down hill from there. Set within such a restrictive society, the young student has few opportunities and fewer lucky breaks.

I was disappointed that the author did not flesh out any of the characters, even the hero. Readers have no clue what most of the characters are thinking, so we have no idea why they take the actions they do. The poverty and injustice throughout the
Like a Chinese Movie

I really enjoy those Chinese movies that focus on a historic theme and then tell a fantastical story. The Corpse Reader is like that ... a historical mystery, set in ancient China, showing the supposed beginnings of forensic science, a sort of CSI in silk robes. There are plot twists that are clear to the astute reader, but the level of interest remains high throughout. You really want to know what happens next, just as you want something good to finally happen to poor So
A Girl Has No Name
"Der Totenleser" is a great historical novel playing in the thirteenth century of the Chinese Tsong Dynasty. I definitly liked the fact that this book is based on one of the earliest forensic medical experts of history; the author found a nice balance between fiction and reality. It was lovely to learn more about the Chinese society of that time and everything felt very credible. However, the first part of the book was a bit tedious (I would have given only 3 stars), but the second part focussin ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars This was one of those books that you know very little about when you start it but quickly captivates you and has you hooked. This tells the incredible story of Ci Song and his early life. Ci Song is often known as one of the founding fathers of forensic science, having lived in late 13th century / early 14th century China.
If you are interested in historical fiction, Chinese history or the early days of forensic science I would certainly recommend this book to you. Ci Song has such ear
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a very good story, but I felt there was something lost in translation. The writing style was too plain, seemingly stripped of the original author's intent. The story simply seemed to lack emotional depth due to its style. Very imaginative and innovative, otherwise.
Horror DNA
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gabino-iglesias
Epic is not a word I like to throw around. In fact, I don't use it in a review unless a novel extends both beyond usual length and scope, not just one of the two. Antonio Garrido's The Corpse Reader deserves to be called epic. It also deserves a space on the list of great adventure novels right next to Jerzy Kosiński's The Painted Bird and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

You can read Gabino's full review at Horror DNA by clicking here.
J Dayton
I'm new to this site and very pleased to find a community of like minded bibliophiles.
Let's have a bit more conversation about The Corpse Reader. I've read through the collection of criticisms and feel obliged to put forth my thoughts about Antonio Garrido's work. Many criticize what they feel is an overly long and slow beginning. I feel this is essential to the full experience and enjoyment of this work. For those who confuse their sex life with literature, think of this as a prolonged an
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Clair Willis, Terri Durant
Shelves: own
I loved this book. It was one of the few books that I have come across that had a bit of everything I like in literature.
The story is a historical fiction/murder mystery set in Medeval China. Ci, the main character, was a real man who lived in China at that time. There is little known about the man himself, but he did wrote four or five volumes about forensics science stuff. Things like how long a corpse had been dead by the amount and types of insects on/in it. How bruises look when made whi
Pat Cummings
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I don't read many mysteries. As a genre, they usually don't have enough "draw" for me; I look for more than is offered in most run-of-the-mill who-dunnits. But a novel about the dawn of forensic science in China, first written in Spanish (and then translated into Japanese and Dutch, among other languages) sounded like it would appeal on more than one level.

As I read it, I kept seeing parallels to other historical mysteries: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In some ways Ci’s life story arc reminded me just a little bit of Lin from Shantaram. Yes, a different country and centuries apart, but in both there is this feeling that things cannot possible get any worse…until they do. That book too was loosely based on real life. Ci Song is based on the first forensic scientist, the one who literally wrote the books on the field. Since there are only about 5 paragraphs to be found about the man, Aontonio Garrido had license to make a great story. And he did ...more
Based on the life of Ci Song, the world's first forensic scientist, this is a historical mystery set in 13th century China. The level of detail is astounding at times, and it's obvious a lot of research went into this.

There were a few small anachronisms, mainly in characters' speech patterns which were sometimes a little too 20th century English colloquial, and I'm still not certain about the Chinese ants, but nothing jolted me out of the story so I'll let the age at foot-binding go.
Elaine Bergstrom
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Here's a novel featuring the historic genius Tsu Sung, who wrote the first books on forensic science in 12th Century China. It is simply written; at first, I thought too simply but as the story progressed the mystery at its core made the book impossible to put down both for the mystery at the core of the story as for the insightful look at an antique culture where respect is often more important than life itself. The story opens with Tsu (called Ci Song in the novel) as a boy in rural China, hop ...more
Charles  van Buren
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel has a distinct dual character. The first half concerns the trials and tribulations of the main protagonist, Ci. As such I found it irritating and some what tedious. Ci is incredibly naive and foolish bringing much of his trouble upon himself through impulsive behavior and a series of bad decisions. In my opinion, this part of the novel is three stars at best. I almost gave up more than once but the historical detail, the subject matter and the quality of the prose kept me going.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-unlimited
The first half started out very slowly but I persevered and the second half was worth the effort! that being said, the main character made SO MANY dumb decisions, i just wanted to shake him around and yell why?! yeah yeah, some of what happened was just sheer bad luck and life circumstances but it could have been mitigated mostly if he was just smart about what he was doing. I enjoyed the slow mystery twist in the end. overall while I'm not disappointed that i read this whole thing, i wouldn't r ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and loosely based on a real person.

It was a bit slow in places and the main character Ci had misfortune following him wherever he went. Sometimes I wished the author had sped up the pace and reduced the amount of unfortunate incidents Ci landed himself in.

I liked the twists and turns of the plot and how the book ended.

There was a lot of interesting information in the books that I sometimes sounded to me to be too
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting murder mystery themed historical fiction based on the Chinese founding father of forensic science Song Ci. The author paints a wonderful portrait of culture in medieval China during the Tsong dynasty. I found the story to be a fast read as the main character moves between catastrophic events and betrayals. Many events in the book appear to be mainly from the author's imagination, but the story gives the reader a fair understanding about how murders may have been handled in medieval C ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow, WOW!

Awesome novel about a little known historical figure. The blend of fact and fiction is balanced perfect, is not over the top, and just whets the readers appetite for more about the father of modern CSI techniques.

This bio-faction novel about Song Ci is a wonderful example of how history and fiction (and mystery) can be fused together is a highly readable and incredibly palatable style.

Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was the author paid by the word? Because this book ended looooong after it should have. The main plot wasn't bad, but the story moved at glacial speed. The mystery could have been solved much sooner, without the myriad unnecessary subplots in the first half of the novel. Maybe something was lost in translation?
Viv JM
I read this for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Task 15: Read a Book of Historical Fiction set before 1900.
The book is set in 13th Century China and tells the tale of Ci Song, thought to be the first ever forensic scientist. It's an exciting mystery, with plenty of fascinating historical detail, and I really enjoyed it.
Sharon Jenni
Aug 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
I returned this ebook and wish I knew how to return the audible as well. After 10% I found the content offensive and didn't even skip to the back of the book to find out how it ends. I cannot honestly say there is more offensive matter in the book but did not want to continue to find out.
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