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…
Angry Robot Books are one of my most reliable publishers for bringing out quality, entertaining fiction and it’s great to see that they’re bringing us some awesome new content again. The Buried Life from Carrie Patel is one of the most recent crop of new Angry Robot novels and it’s certainly something that fans of steampunk should love. However, it’s not just limited to the steampunk genre, using a dystopian setting as a backdrop with several unique elements that make it standout from not only your typical dystopian novel but also your typical steampunk as well. It blends all of these two elements along with the mystery at the book’s core to create a very interesting novel that’s very promising indeed, and certainly should put Carrie Patel on that list of authors who readers will be looking forward to seeing what she can come up with next.
The book uses the backdrop of the underground city of Recoletta to tell a very interesting story through its pages. Inspector Liesl Malone is the main protagonist, and it’s her job to investigate the murder of a renowned historian. However, that job’s made all the more harder by the fact that her investigation is being blocked at every turn by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation. And then, to make matters worse, the bodies are piling up, with a second high-profile murder threatening to upend the fabric of the city’s society, with it not being long before both Liesl and her new partner, Rafe Sundar, are cast under the watchful eye of not just the criminals that they seek to capture, but also the Government who claims to protect them.
The Buried Life has a great premise and it delivers, for the most part. The pace is fast and intriguing with interesting characters even if they aren’t quite as developed as they should be, with the mystery in the fascinating world being the main draw here. The world doesn’t really fall into the trap of being from one particular genre, and it’s really exploited here, with some strong narrative making the book really work. The idea and the story are both equally compelling and it’s great to see that the author doesn’t fall into the trap of sacrificing one for the other, with no over-reliance on the world building or a complete lack of it. There’s just enough to keep us hooked, drawn in and wanting to know more, which is hopefully something that we will get in the sequel, Cities and Thrones.
On the whole then, Patel’s The Buried Life is a promising debut that benefits from a very original setting and a story that doesn’t get bogged down too much in it. Whilst not all of the characters work as well as well as they should, this book is certainly something that is still worth trying out. Recommended.