Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

The Buried Life
Author:  Carrie Patel
Publisher:  Angry Robot Books, March 3, 2015
        (North American and eBook)
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780857665218 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.

When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…

File Under: Science Fantasy [ Thriller | Society in Ruins | Fully Booked | New and Weird ]

Melanie's Thoughts

Hats off to Carrie Patel for an ambitious debut with The Buried Life.  This is the first in her Buried Life series which features a murder mystery set in the steampunk/dystopian mash-up of Recoletta. The story starts with police inspector Leisel Malone chasing criminals through the streets of the underground city before she is called in and partnered with the rookie cop Rafe to investigate the murder of one of the city's upper class. Convinced that appearances are deceiving and as the death count rises Malone pushes against the authority of the Directorate of Preservation in order to uncover what is really going on.  On the other side of the tracks is the laundress Jane and her reporter friend Freddie who also becomes embroiled in the mystery. It's not until the very final chapters when these four characters come together as the mystery is solved and a new one begins.

Patel has created an very interesting world as seen through the eyes of her characters, mainly Jane and Leisel who tell the story. Patel's world experienced some catastrophic event which caused everyone to burrow underground. In doing so their civilisation became more structured, rigid and controlled.  It is reminiscent of Victorian London with its rigid class structure and gender specific roles. The Directorate of Preservation controls the flow of information and books are all but banned. It wasn't clear what the cause of the catastrophe was or exactly how the Directorate came to hold so much power but it was all powerful and ruled with an iron fist. Patel richly describes the world and society for the reader with the right balance between description and dialogue. I believe that world building is Patel's stronger skill rather characterisation as I feel her characters needed some fleshing out. The story is told from Leisel and Jane's point of view which really worked in order to see the different aspects of the society however, the characters themselves weren't balanced. I had assumed that as the story started with Leisel that she would be the lead character but the lowly laundress Jane soon took over. I was unclear who the main character was actually supposed to be. Leisel's physicality was well described but her circumstances, back story or character were not which was in contrast to Jane. As so little of Leisel's life was explained it was difficult to empathise with her and she was a bit one dimensional. Likewise the male characters Rafe and Freddie were so loosely described that they could have almost been left out if they weren't needed to advance the story through dialogue with the other characters.

Patel ends the story well and with a great lead into the next book of the series but she needs to work on her characterisation in order to keep me interested. This series could end up being one of my favourites if Patel makes a conscious decision as to which character will take the lead and develops that character fully. As I said at the start this is an ambitious story even for writers with a few books under their belt so well done to Patel. I am looking forward to finding out what happens next to these plucky heroines.


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