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The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

The Buried Life (edition 2015)

by Carrie Patel (Author)

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1029118,402 (3.19)1
Title:The Buried Life
Authors:Carrie Patel (Author)
Info:Angry Robot (2015)
Collections:2017 Book Log, Recently Read

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The Buried Life: Recoletta Book 1 by Carrie Patel



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Carrie Patel's debut novel, The Buried Life is a post-apocalyptic underground murder mystery with elements of political intrigue and revolution thrown in for good measure. Set in the subterranean city of Recoletta, the story starts off with the murder of one of the members of the wealthy "whitenail" upper crust of society, and winds its way through twists and turns until it reaches a literally explosive conclusion. With an atmospheric setting, an intriguing mystery, and fairly well-drawn characters, The Buried Life is a fast-paced book with a lot to offer that is only marred by a couple of minor missteps.

The story in the book is itself somewhat interesting in that there are two viewpoint protagonists. The first, as one would expect in a murder mystery, is a police inspector named Liesl Malone who is assigned to investigate the death of Professor Werner Cahill, a historian from the upper crust of Recolettan society. From the start, this is a complicated case because it turns out that in Patel's imagined future society, the study of history is a tightly regulated and controlled activity, with most citizens kept entirely ignorant of the events of the past. Almost all historians work for the powerful and secretive Directorate of Preservation, which jealously guards its secrets, and aren't about to cooperate with a mere police inspector and her rookie partner just because one of their members has been killed.

The other protagonist is Jane Lin, a laundress with a high society clientele who more or less tumbles into the story by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and seeing something that some powerful people think she should not have. In some ways, Jane is a more interesting character than Liesl - while Liesl is a fairly straight-forward headstrong maverick police officer, Jane is a much more subtle character, often unsure of herself and unsure of her position in society. Unfortunately, Jane's portion of the story is mostly carried by her relationships with Fredrick Anders, her newspaper editor neighbor, and a roguish and somewhat mysterious figure named Roman Arnault who seems to be connected to every underhanded act in the city. Because Jane is used as a conduit to bring these characters into the story, and a linchpin to link them all together, her own story sometimes seems to get a short shrift.

One of the elements that makes The Buried Life what it is is the underground city of Recoletta itself, which is almost a character in its own right. Almost omnipresent in the book, the city is a brooding presence in the background of every scene, with dark steam-filled tunnels, gated communities full of imposing mansions, ballrooms filled with lights, and dour government buildings. The atmosphere provided by the city is gritty, and sometimes almost Dickensian in feel, with the sensibilities of the early grimy and often unfair years of the industrial revolution. What makes the city even more interesting is the fact that despite the crowding and the inequality and the grind of the life lived by its denizens, the fact that its residents continue to live underground is purely a result of cultural inertia - fairly deep in the book it is revealed that the surface is not only habitable, it is inhabited. Whatever disaster drove humanity into underground cities for survival apparently happened so long ago that people had been able to return to recolonize the outside world. Although relatively few scenes take place on the surface, the knowledge that it is there makes the city seem even more confining and oppressive.

The murder mystery at the core of the book works well, rolling along nicely from the start, and unfolding into conspiracy laden political intrigue in short order. Liesl's investigation is first hampered by the intransigence of the Directorate of Preservation, but is soon obstructed by the Council, the ruling body of the city. Forced to conduct their inquiries on the sly, Liesl and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar face official and unofficial resistance at every turn but still push forward as the body count rises and the web of conspirators becomes more and more apparent. The only real misstep the book makes is in the resolution of the murder mystery portion of the book where Liesl and Jane both almost simultaneously run into different people prepared to explain the web of political deceit that resulted in the murders. One person explaining the solution would have been a mild let down, but having two different characters do it to two different protagonists simply causes all of the built up tension to deflate into silliness. The book recovers a bit at the end with some dramatic political developments and a hint of what could be coming in future volumes, so all is not lost, but the flawed resolution of the murder mystery still drags the book down a bit.

Overall, The Buried Life is a fine debut novel from an author who shows a lot of promise. There are so many strong elements to this book that the few flaws are glaring, but can be looked past. The murder mystery is generally well-presented (albeit with one significant problem), the setting is interesting, the characters are mostly well-developed, and the underlying political drama is intriguing. Patel handles all of these elements with an ease that many veteran authors would have a hard time matching. The end result of all of this is a tightly-written, fast-paced and very good novel that will scratch both your mystery itch and your post-apocalyptic dystopia itch.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
  StormRaven | Dec 15, 2016 |
While this novel may not be the best example of a dystopian novel, it is a refreshing view on the genre. In a world forced underground, the citizens are unaware of the upper world (nature) due to the censorship of their rcurrent authoritative system. But underground, citizens still retain a sense of freedom and independence as they exchange their real freedom for safety and security. Until a series of murders threatens to topple the order everyone craves.

I loved the two main characters, Malone and Jane, and their relationships with the people around them. Both characters develop as the story progresses, both suffering losses and heartbreak but solving a mystery through their intellect (and sheer dumb luck).

My main complaints center around the slow pace the novel sometimes exhibited or the broadness of the scope. I think if Carrie were more politically inclined, or perhaps more sci fi-y, she could have built this world up more, beefed up the scenary or the background. However, she clearly left the ending hanging and waiting for the next installment so maybe the next will be even better.

**I received this novel in exchange for an honest review** ( )
  QueenAlyss | Jul 3, 2016 |
I'm not sure the cover is aiming at the correct audience for this book... I expected something dark and dystopian. While I can't deny that, technically, this is a dystopian world, the story itself is a light and breezy murder-mystery/romance. The decaying underground city of Recoletta, which serves as backdrop to the story, comes off almost as an afterthought. The feel of the setting is one that will be familiar to any reader of contemporary Victorianesque fantasy - I'd recommend it for fans of Leanna Renee Hieber and Gail Carriger.

Our heroine is Jane, an orphaned laundress who has clients among the aristocracy, and a patron who is a news reporter. Her work puts her, coincidentally, at the scene of the murder of one of the leaders of the city.
Inspector Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar are on the case - but it seems that the city Council wants them to shove it under the rug. Instead, Malone recruits Jane as an informant, and keeps looking... even as the plot that's uncovered spirals up to the highest echelons.

What does the rakish rogue Roman Arnault have to do with the crime? Will Jane's attraction to him blind her to the potential of his guilt?

Thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book! ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Review copy

The Buried Life is an enjoyable first novel by Carrie Patel. Set in a future where many have chosen to live below the Earth's surface. The fictional city of Recoletta, like all modern cities, had been constructed around the two values that society prized most, security and privacy.

It's important to note, most historical records were destroyed in the period immediately following The Catastrophe and any that did survive are severely restricted as to who can access them.

The story begins with the murder of Professor Werner Thomas Cahill, a historian working on a secret project...Prometheus.

Investigating the murder, are Inspector Liesl Malone and her new assistant, Inspector Randolph Sundar. There's a nice relationship that builds between these two characters and the author is skillful in dialog that rings true and is comfortable to read..

Soon after a second murder, that of Mr. Lanning Fitzhugh, a master Architect of the city, the Inspectors are forbidden by the city's council from investigating the case any further. However, the Municipal Police and the Council don't exactly get along and at this point the Inspectors have come to far to let it go.

In addition to the police, there is also a laundry-woman and her reporter friend who become deeply involved in the mystery.

The Buried Life is actually well written and there is a pretty good story here, but in many ways, the writer has merely scratched the surface. There is so much I found myself wanting to know about the back-story that just wasn't revealed. What was The Catastrophe? Why is this town underground? Why is knowledge of the past denied to those living in the present?

The Buried Life will be available in print and e-book formats from the usual online retailers on July 29,2014 and is published by Angry Robot Books. ( )
  FrankErrington | Jul 23, 2014 |
Oddly enough, one of the things that drew me to The Buried Life is that its author, Carrie Patel, is a narrative designer for a California gaming company with some excellent games to its credit. I’ve read novels by other gaming designers and they always pack a punch, so I thought, “Why not?” Other equally important factors were that the storyline includes a definite steampunk vibe, an underground city, a kick-butt female detective, and a huge library. If you’re into dystopian with a steampunk edge, and/or crime stories and/or science fiction adventure then this one is definitely worth taking a look at. Read the rest of my review at http://popcornreads.com/?p=7505. ( )
  PopcornReads | Jul 10, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carrie Patelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Argh! OxfordDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coulthart, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0857665219, Mass Market Paperback)

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…

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

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