The Corpse Reader

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The Corpse Reader
Book's cover
AuthorAntonio Garrido
TranslatorThomas Bunstead
Media typePrint (hardcover)

The Corpse Reader is a novel in a mix of several genres, has elements of historical thriller, realistic, medical fiction, and science fantasy by Spanish author Antonio Garrido, based on the work of Sòng Cí, considered to be the founder of CSI-style forensic science. It tells the story of a young man of humble origin whose determination led him from his position as a gravedigger in the Fields of Death of Lin'an to a position at the prestigious Ming Academy.[1]

The novel was first published October 5, 2011 in Spain as El Lector de Cadáveres[2] and was then translated by Thomas Bunstead and published May 25, 2013 in United States as The Corpse Reader.


Antonio Garrido was born on January 1, 1963, in Linares, Spain. He is an industrial engineer graduated from the Polytechnic University Las Palmas. He has resided in Valencia since 1994, where he works as a professor at CEU Cardenal Herrera University of Valencia and he is the director of the Master in Styling and Automotive Concept at the CFP. Garrido is also a guest professor at the literary workshop of the historical novel of the Valencia Institute of Classical and Oriental Studies. Passionate about historical research, he dedicated seven years of his life to his first novel La Escriba (The Scribe) in 2008. This book was his international debut.[3]

Historical Background[edit]

The period in which the book is located is at the beginning of the 13th Century, China was under Song dynasty (960–1276), apparently more advanced than other countries of the time. The Chinese people were governed by a meritocratic system.[4] Any citizen, even if they were of humble origin, could reach the highest positions if they passed the most difficult imperial examinations.[5]

Sòng Cí[edit]

Sòng Cí (1186–1249) was a Chinese judge and forensic medical scientist. He was visionary capable of applying revolutionary scientific knowledge and methods to solve crimes in such a surprising way that his enemies described them as "diabolical". His profound studies in law and medicine led him to apply the application of chemical developers for the detection of hidden wounds, entomological analyzes, life-size drawings of the bodies found at the crime scene, classification of labeling of tests, preservation of limbs.[citation needed] He wrote five forensic treaties that not only undertake techniques and procedures but also numerous cases that he himself solved. These have been texts of a great importance in many universities until almost the end of the 19th century. His main contribution is his book "His Yuan" addressed methods to be utilized in the investigation of suspicious deaths.[6]

Title meaning[edit]

The Corpses Readers, after completing the university degrees of doctor and judge, were an elite of super-judges, capable not only of investigating clues and traces but also of unraveling the secrets hidden beneath the wounds of the dead. As a result of a failure in the interpretation of the forensic evidence, a misdiagnosed was given, they could be severely punished. Sòng Cí, the protagonist of the book was the first of them.[7]


The book is about a forensic elite who, even at the risk of their own lives, had a mandate that no criminal should go unpunished. Sòng Cí was the first of them. Inspired by a real character, The Corpse Reader tells the story of a young man of humble origin who rises to high position.

Most of the novel takes place the Imperial Court.[8]


  • Song Ci is the protagonist of the story. Cí will take us back in time, from the extreme poverty of the rice fields to the lavish halls of the imperial palace, passing through the depressed streets of the cruel populace in which life cost so little. Always in the search of truth and justice. Ci has a strange disorder, scientifically named CIPA (Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis), which prevents him from perceiving pain "It was then that he noticed he'd cut himself.Though his finger didn't hurt, he examined the cut with great interest".[9]
  • Judge Feng is the boss of Ci's father, a high imperial official in Lin'an and one of the best judges of the Chinese empire, respected and admired by all for his incorruptibility, wisdom and good judgment when dictating the sentences of cases who were presented. The protagonist considers him as a second father.
  • Third is the sister of Cí Song and only survivor, along with her brother, of the fire that devastated the family home in the village. She is 7 years old and suffers from the same illness that brought her two older sisters (First and Second) to the grave "Third was the only one who had managed to survive, though she remained sickly".[10] Cí is forced to keep her, which will make him get into more than one mess.
  • Professor Ming is the director of the academy that bears his name and one of the most reputable doctors in the empire, although he also serves as a judge. Soon he realizes the potential of Cí Song and will immediately reveal himself as his greatest defender.
  • Gray is a young nobleman who studies at the Ming academy and who Cí Song has the misfortune of having him as a roommate. Ambitious and lacking in all kinds of scruples, he does not hesitate to appropriate the discoveries of the protagonist when it comes to ascending in the academy and reaching the position for the judiciary that is at stake.


During the trip of Garrido to the VIII ICFMT, The Indian Congress of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology held annually in New Delhi,[11] he was inspired to make this novel. The conference that immediately caught his interest was about the latest advances in spectrophotometers, the advantages on the field of mitochondrial DNA analysis and focused on the historical beginnings of forensic discipline. Deepened in the figure of who is considered worldwide as the father of this, Song Cí, the protagonist of the book The Corpse Reader, his passion and rebellion was what most caught Garrido's attention. Also, Ci's desire to change an obsolete criminal investigation system based on superstition and spiritualism, through the use of pioneering scientific methods. But, above all, and despite the terrible risks run by those who contravened established norms, his determination to make justice prevail.

The documentation period was twelve months longer to gather information in the political, cultural, social, judicial, economic, religious, military and sexual fields, together with exhaustive references in the fields of medicine, education, architecture, food , furniture, clothing, measurement systems, currency, state organization and bureaucracy in medieval China of the Song Dynasty.

Garrido attended to an autopsy accompanied by Dr. Juan Jose Payo Barrose, forensic doctor and director of the Institute of Legal Medicine of Alicante. All in order to describe with details, he wanted to feel with his own skin the same sensations that Cí Song should have felt because he thought that was the only way to transmit to the audience what Ci had experienced.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

  • The Japan Times: "Each successive chapter climaxes in a precarious cliffhanger from which Song must extricate himself — only to confront an even greater challenge"
  • Publishers weekly: "Garrido's impressively detailed descriptions of daily life and Cí's innovative methods offset his hero's overlong, overdone tribulations"[13]
  • ARS Technica: "A refreshing break from the urban-noir fetish that is so common in conventional thrillers and crime books. It's a great novel to add to a summer reading list."[14]
  • Book Reader's Heaven: "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!"[15]
  • GEEKSMASH: "If you'd like to know more about what life in China was really like during the Song Dynasty, if you find forensics interesting...then you should check out The Corpse Reader."
  • Horror Talk: "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 Kosinki's The Painted Bird and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."[16]



  1. ^ "El Lector de Cadaveres (video)". Youtube.
  2. ^ ""El lector de Cadáveres" Antonio Garrido". Planeta de Libros.
  3. ^ "Biografia". Antonio Garrido.
  4. ^ Keay, John (2009). China: A History. United States of America: Basic Book. ISBN 9780465015801.
  5. ^ Young, Michael (1958). The Rise of the Meritocracy.
  6. ^ Giles, HA (1924). "The "Hsi Yüan Lu" or "Instructions to Coroners". Proc R Soc Med. 17: 59–107. PMC 2201406. PMID 19983962.
  8. ^ Garrido, Antonio (2013). The Corpse Reader. United Stated: Amazon Publishing. ISBN 9781612184364.
  9. ^ Garrido, Antonio. The Corpse Reader. p. 160.
  10. ^ Garrido, Antonio. The Corpse Reader. p. 78.
  11. ^ "The Indian Congress of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology".
  12. ^ Garrido, Antonio. "El Lector De Cadaveres".
  13. ^ "The Corpse Reader". Publishers Weekly.
  14. ^ Torres, Cesar. "Experience ancient forensic science in Antonio Garrido's The Corpse Reader".
  15. ^ "The Corpse Reader". Book Readers Heaven.
  16. ^ Iglesias, Gabino. ""The Corpse Reader" Book Review". Horror Talk.
  17. ^ "Antonio Garrido Prizes".