Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Antonio Garrido Creates Historical Novel of Significance, Including Background, and Thriller With Leading Character Song Ci, Father of Forensics!

The Corpse Reader

By Antonio Garrido
Translated by Tom Bunstead

Recipient of the 2012 Zaragoza International Prize for best historical novel published in Spain

Out on the 28th of May; Pre-order now!!!

When a novel receives such an award, it is quite easily for any reviewer to exlaim that it is outstanding! And that is very true...

Buttt, naturally, for me, when I saw the author's name and learned he was from Spain, I automatically went to the back of the book!

Yes, there it was, a complete bibliography, as well as a glossary! Then I checked out his credentials--a former educator and industrial engineer... Further, he has spent years of research into the Tsong dynasty, as well as the five-column treatise on forensics written by Song Ci, who is now commonly known as The Father of Forensics Medicine...

Now, why did that come first for me? Well, because this book was written by someone outside of China. To me that automatically meant he had to have considerable evidence of research to have acquired the knowledge to write such an epic historical novel on the life of Song Ci, don't you think?
And Antonio Garrido certain has done that. Interestingly, he had little knowledge of forensics...

Wow! Don't we Americans think we all know so much, given our variety and interest in television programs, such as CSI, Bones, etc., but when we read a novel based upon a master of this science, we will quickly learn that we really know so very little!

"Ci had some doubts about Gray
Fox's inspection, and Ci was ready
to see if he was right.
"He went first to the corpse's nape,
working his fingers from there up
along the scalp to the crown of the
head, and then inspecting the ears
with the help of the little spatula.
Then he went downward from the
next, examining the muscular
shoulders, upper arms, elbows, and
forearms, stopping at the right hand
and paying particular attention at the
base of the thumb...
"Your student has carried out a
superficial examination. Blinded
by his ego, he ignored the value of
what seemed to him banal facts.
Just as a race over a thousand li
can only be achieved one step at a
time, examining a corpse requires
patience and attention to the most
minute details..."
The first half of the novel surrounds Ci's childhood and reminded me of the famous Prodigal Son's story, except that Ci was attending college, while his older brother farmed their land. But when his father lost his job, Ci had to come back and did most of his work, while his brother took much more time off. 

A number of important characters are introduced in this part, including a judge for whom his father worked and who did much to ensure that Ci was taking the proper classes and other support he needed to be able to sit for a future position.

Even then, while he took classes, however, his brilliance placed him as somewhat of an outsider, especially, with a student who had high connections, but did not have the "eyes" to see what Ci did when he evaluated bodies.

But then a neighbor, Shang, was murdered and Ci first found the body as he worked in the fields, and then was brought in to review his body. Ci's brother was blamed for his murder, but his rival made sure that word got around that Ci should not be trusted...

Ci was also foolish in later becoming involved with a local gambler who wanted to take advantage of his expertise and entice rich customers to the local cemetery, to have Ci examine the body and define how the individual died. It was at that time that Ci began to be called "The Corpse Reader..." It's hard to blame him, however, since his father and mother as well as his brother in jail, leaving Ci with his ill sister...

At this point, the drama, suspense, and investigation moves into high gear as Ci tries to find evidence to save his brother. He met  with corrupt officials, told he would have to pay to gain support for his brother. In desperation, he manages to get further into trouble to make money...and then having to quickly leave town! As he left, he visited the cell where his brother was and saw the results of his torture and knew he was dead. They had lied to him, even as they took the money!

In The Washing Away of Wrongs, the first documented forensic entomology case is reported. In 1235 A.D., a stabbing occurred in a Chinese village. By testing different blades on an animal carcass, it was determined that the wound was caused by a sickle. After further questioning, the investigator had all villagers bring their sickles and lay them out before the crowd. Blow flies were attracted to a single sickle because invisible remnants of blood and tissue still adhered to it. The owner of the alleged sickle later broke down and confessed the crime.

Interestingly, this case which comes from the works of Song Ci, is used in several ways during the mystery thriller. Cool use of actual research, right?!
"1206, Tsong dynasty, Eastern China.
Fujian Circuit.
Jianyang Subprefecture farmlands.

"Shang didn't know death was coming for him until he tasted the blood spurting up into his throat. He covered the wound with his hands to try to stem the bleeding. He tried to speak, too, but before he could make a sound, his eyes opened wide and his legs crumpled beneath him like a worn-out marionette's. If he could have uttered the words, he would have spoken his killer's name, but the blood in his throat, along with the cloth the killer had stuffed into his mouth, prevented him.
"On his knees in the mud, before breathing his last breath, Shang felt the warm rain and smelled the wet earth beneath him. Both had been with him his whole life. Then, soaked in blood, Shang's body collapsed into the mire, and his soul drifted away..."

Test: What is the most important word in the above paragraph for solving this mystery?

This novel is exceptional in so many different ways... If you are into forensic sciences, this is a must read... History buffs...also a must-read! For those who enjoy a good forensic science suspense thriller, this will easily fulfill your interests. Highly Recommended!


A native of Spain, a former educator, and industrial engineer, Antonio Garrido has received acclaim for the darkly compelling storytelling and nuanced historical details that shape his novel The Corpse Reader. This fictionalized account of the early life of Song Cí, the Chinese founding father of forensic science, 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. 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). Antonio's previous novel, La Escriba, was published in 2008. Garrido currently resides in Valencia, Spain.

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