Published by Watkins Media Limited on July 29th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Gothic, Mystery & Detective, Private Investigators, Urban
Buy on Amazon, Buy at Forbidden Planet
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...
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I always feel that reading a book should feel like a marathon, not a sprint; you want to set off at a nice leisurely pace, settling down into a deep narrative and plot that will keep you going for the 3-400 pages. What you don’t want is the equivalent of Usain Bolt, zooming off at the sound of the starter’s pistol, and getting exhausted by the first turn. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what you get with Carrie Patel’s début novel ‘The Buried Life’.
Set in a dystopic future, in a World that’s very similar to our own, we’re introduced to our protagonist Liesl Malone as she chases smugglers through the city streets. It’s soon made clear that she is an inspector in the ‘Municipals’ an independent police force in the city of Recoletta. When an important scholar is murdered, she’s teamed up with rookie Rafe Sundar to investigate. Meanwhile, young laundry-maid Jane and her reporter neighbour Frederick are drawn into the mystery when Jane is attacked after delivering to another victim. As their lives start to combine it’s clear that our four heroes could be in deeper than they could imagine.
Patel starts off right in the middle of the action, and it really doesn’t let up, which makes the slump it hits about half-way even more annoying; it’s almost as if she had all the ideas, World-building, and characterisation (which are all superb) mapped out, but only for the first half, after which she completely loses momentum. Characters start making stupid decisions that make no sense and go against what’s been established, the World building suffers from too much superlative descriptions and the plot seems to just go off on a tangent.
It’s a real shame as what Patel does with ‘The Buried Life’ that works shows real promise. The two partnerships work brilliantly and mirror each other well (although for the most part I preferred the more interesting Rafe over the linear Liesl) with both woman being the stronger half. What’s also refreshing is that at no time is Liesl’s gender an issue – no one questions her abilities because she’s a woman – she’s just damn good at her job. It’s a shame that this step forward is wiped out by Jane’s complete inability to use her head when presented with shady (but devilishly handsome ladies – yawn) Arnault, a character who’s ulterior motives are so transparent you could sell them as plastic wrap! Despite this, Arnault gets an entire chapter devoted to him that’s so dull I almost marked the book as a ‘Did Not Finish’; basically an entire ‘info-dump’ that’s supposed to instil empathy ( I think) but instead makes you wish he was dead.
Patel also falls foul of way too many narrative tropes – ‘What-If?’ scenarios,
shock silly reveals, and an open ending (naturally paving the way for the second book) that really make you wonder how much of a hand the editor had in this. Along with the constant superlatives (honestly, sometimes less is more) and the forced, unnatural language style it’s hard to believe that someone at some point didn’t say “Look…You’re suffocating the characters and diluting the plot!”
The second book in the ‘Buried Life’ series is due out in July 2015 (yes…that quickly) and I will probably give it a look as I was genuinely fascinated by the world Patel had created, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I find that the two books together, if edited down, made one really good book. I really wanted to like this, but it ended up being just incredibly frustrating.