The Gold Monkey Key (Part One)

It’s not that I don’t like books about crime or that I dislike Tartan Noir – quite the opposite: I’m a big fan of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride and Malcolm MacKay, yet somehow, I’d never read anything by Val McDermid, which is strange in itself. But even stranger for me, who hates gore and horror, was the book of McDermid’s that I choose to read first. Its title? Forensics. Although I would not normally have been interested in such a gruesome subject, I had a problem. In Book 2, The Gold Monkey Key, I needed some ideas about a murder that complicates life for the main character Sanjeev and a way for him to be able to identify the killer of a courier who is carrying important documents. Step forward Val McDermid! On page 44, I found exactly what I was looking for: an account of Song Ci’s 700 year old The Washing Away of Wrongs (what a great title). Song Ci was an official in ancient China who wrote the first book about forensic medicine. In The Washing Away of Wrongs, Song Ci describes how he solved the murder of a farmer through the use of insects. Nowadays, as McDermid goes on to discuss, the use of insects to help establish the time of death is not uncommon, but all those years ago, Song Ci was a pioneer, making use of his knowledge of science and logic to apprehend the guilty and exonerate the guiltless. In The Gold Monkey Key, Sanjeev has a lowly fly to thank for avoiding the noose. All those years ago, a similar fly convicted a murderer. In both cases, flies are more than pests, though I don’t make any promises about remembering that the next time one lands on me.


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