Book Review: The Buried Life

The Buried Life by Carrie Patel, Buried Life #1

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 – Ricoletta’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…


If you look closely at the synopsis of The Buried Life you will notice that you will not be able to place it within one single genre. The mentioning of gaslights inspires something of an steampunkish influence but you also have the detective and contemporary influences that makes you wonder what all is hidden within this book. I got the same feeling as when I started reading Unwrapped Sky from Rjurik Davidson: a book that just has to be great. The Buried Life is Carrie Patel's first venture into the genre fiction, she currently works for Obsidian Entertainment as a narrative designer, this is something that you do see back in her writing, its very solid. The combination of Carrie Patel's idea behind the story of The Buried Life and her excellent writing make it one noteworthy debut. 

The story starts of with directly creating a mystery sense around it. The first focus is on two professors who start to debate and eventually come down to one conclusion and there is already the mentioning of one word. After this the perspective changes to Inspector Liesl Malone. Liesl has been partnered up with the rookie-just-out-of-academy Rafe Sundar. Her boss does try to convince her that Rafe has certain skills, people skills, that Liesl doesn't have. Liesl has been given a new case, that of solving a new murder case, one that doesn't fall in the standard category. There are plenty of murder carried out in the dark alleys of the underground city of Recoletta. What makes the murder case of Liesl so interesting is the fact that it involves a well renowned historian, this historian was also part of the whitenails, the upperclass  - the elite -  of Recoletta and makes this murder case that more important to be solved. These whitenails should live in the utmost level of comfortable and safety, but with this murder these prespectives are turned up side down. Now you might expect that with a murderer on the loose that has an eye out for whitenails that Liesl and her new partner Rafe would be given free reign in solving this case, but this is far from the it, with every move they make they are being called back and blocked to make any kind of advance. By this latter part the big idea of Carrie Patel's world readily comes forward and does inspire something of corruptness. However Liesl already shows early on that she won't back down that easily. Are Liesl and Rafe in over their heads? 

This is only one part of the story as beside Liesl and Rafe there is also the focus on another character in The Buried Life that of Jane Lin, Jane can be considered to be the second main protagonist of the book. She is a laundress of the lower classes in Recolleta and has a completely different personality that Liesl. Jane has a way of stumbling upon murder after murder, it is by being blocked that Liesl and Rafe call in the help of Jane because she has access to where they cannot go. I was cleverly executed this dual play between Liesl and Jane, their stories started of individually but merged later on to provide an even more solid storyline. 

The characters that Carrie Patel shows in The Buried Life are all very well fleshed out and each one has something intriguing working in it's favor. Take for example Inspector Liesl Malone, she is very strict and hard when it comes to her job and her actions. When she has to chose between talking thing out or a fist fight she will definitely opt for the latter one. And sometimes this is better when you read several scenes... Besides being a hard-ass she does also have her moments of compassion, its with these virtues and vices that she is a well rounded and fun character to read. The partner of Liesl, Rafe Sundar is more or less the opposite of Liesl, Rafe is a former actor and has a skill set that gets him into doors that would normally stay closed. Jane as I mentioned also offers an interesting perspective as she works as the inside man position, but she isn't the tough person Liesl is, well in the beginning. Her character undergoes a very interesting transformation and especially in the later parts of the book we get to learn more and more about her which is a big plus. 

What readily stands out in The Buried Life is the world that Carrie Patel has created. As I already mentioned above, the synopsis of the book allows you to think a bit about this but once you get reading it becomes apparent that there is so much more involved. It does have something of an steampunk feel combined with a bit of regal Victorian setting (which becomes clear by several characters), there is however also a distinct dystopian setting that I couldn't have guessed. The underground city where The Buried Life takes place in is called Recoletta, and is there with a definite purpose, in the past, a disastrous event took place know as the "Catastrophe" that destroyed the world that we know, yes it is vaguely hinted that the universe of The Buried Life takes place on our Earth, very cool and readily allows you to think about what other influences we might see. But anyway after the Catastrophe, people fled from the surface to the bellows of the Earth and created new cities. There only vague reference to what exactly occurred during the Catastrophe but one thing is sure it changed everything for good. 

One thing that changed was the tight control on art from the pre-Catastrophe time. There are some books mentioned like Art of War that will be recalled by some no doubt. The current inhabitants of Recoletta basically live a life of censorship, and the power that the pre-Catastrophe books contain is considered highly dangerous and is therefore kept behind lock and key and several bars of steel. I do have to stop from telling more but with this information and the synopsis you should be able to draw some basic conclusion as to what Liesl and Rafe might start to uncover... 

I very much liked the rapid in which Carrie Patel threw her story in the ending, though some elements of the bigger and smaller pictures were lost in the heat of everything it did gave me a wow feeling and just like the setting I hadn't dared to imagine the eventual direction the story went into. It's all linked with the high censorship that is going on in Recoletta, not all the involved parties are in favor of this...

The Buried Life is one of those books where you get much more than you had bargained for. Carrie Patel introduces the reader to a very interesting world, which besides several explanations only raises many more questions. The whole setting of the book is cleverly build by mixing up several of the established genres, Carrie Patel has created a very unique and intriguing blend. I have to be honest when I say that I expected a detective series but in the end I was proven partially wrong, yes there is still a strong current of a detective, but several strict rules can not be uphold for ever and we see a big change occurring in the final chapters that will proof interesting for further exploration in the sequel. if you look back you can say that it was bound to happen, I am always a big fan in these cause and effect kind of things as we now have a clear foundation which Carrie Patel can readily use. The Buried Life is a high recommendation, you don't come by these types of books very often, great reading stuff. 

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