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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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Horace Whaley, the island’s county coroner, takes the stand. Horace was sitting at his desk, when his phone rang to tell him of Carl’s death. Sheriff Moran and Deputy Martinson lay Carl’s body on his examination table. After hearing the facts of the discovery, Horace begins a methodical autopsy. He cuts away Carl’s clothing, emptying Carl’s pocket as he does so. He notices Carl’s watch stopped at 1:47.

Horace then begins to consciously think of Carl as the deceased, as a corpse, and not as the Carl Heine who last week brought in his 6-year-old son to get sutures for a cut. Horace scrutinized the pink-hued and flecked foam that comes out of the deceased mouth and nose. This foam shows that Carl was alive when he entered the water.

It is thinking about this foam that Horace for the first time notices the wound above the deceased’s left ear. Cutting away hair, Horace reveals a four-inch area of fractured bone and a strand of brain material. A narrow, flat object about 2-inches wide has caused the wound. It was a wound he’d seen in the war, made by the gun butts of Japanese field soldiers trained in the art of kendo, or stick fighting. Horace recalls that the majority of “Japs” inflicted the death blow over the left ear. The Sheriff returns from informing Carl’s wife of his death. Horace calls him over to show him the wound. He tells Sheriff Moran that it reminds him of the kendo strikes of the “Japs.” At the moment, he cannot tell whether the deceased received the blow before, during, or after drowning. Horace then states that if he were playing Sherlock Holmes he’d start looking for a right-handed Jap with a bloody gun butt.


Guterson continues to use the trial to present the facts of the case. Island coroner Horace Whaley testimony based on his autopsy of Carl’s body provides valuable information: Carl’s watch stopped at 1:47, he entered the water breathing, and his wound resembled wounds inflicted by Japanese field soldiers trained in the art of kendo.

This chapter also reiterates how Carl Heine was perceived by those around him. Carl was a strong, silent man that had been touched by the war. He was respected and admired, but without friends. He was a good man, but not one to joke with, a man that “went about his life deliberately” in silence. A powerful man admired by others, but who seemed to have no friends.

We also see a theme developing regarding the profound effect of war. In Chapter 4, we learn of the physical and emotional effects the war had on Ishmael Chambers. In this chapter and chapter 2, we learn how Carl’s war experience made him grave and silent. We also learn that like Carl, coroner Horace Whaley was “a man inhabited by the darkness of the war.” Whaley experience made him feel ineffectual, even after the war, because he was unable to save men in his care. In Chapter 11, Guterson shows us the war’s effect on Kabuo.

Lastly, Guterson provides yet another motivating factor for Sheriff Moran’s determination to find Kabuo guilty of murdering Carl Heine. Sheriff Moran asks Horace if the wound in Carl’s head could have been caused by someone hitting Carl. Horace’s reply is to ask, perhaps sarcastically, if Sheriff Moran wanted to play Sherlock Holmes. As shown in Chapter 18, this remark about playing Sherlock Holmes stings Sheriff Moran. Sheriff Moran, uneasy with his role as sheriff, now feels he has to prove to Horace Whaley that he is capable of performing his duties especially when those duties require finding a murderer.

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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Summary


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