The city of Ricoletta is built mostly underground. Few dare to venture above ground, even though whatever disaster drove people into their caves has passed. The city streets (tunnels) are safe, patrolled regularly by the city guard. The city council makes sure the trains run on time and that the food arrives as scheduled. The status quo is shockingly disturbed one morning when a historian is murdered in what is supposed to be the safest place in Ricoletta. Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life begins as a murder mystery, but becomes something much larger.
Liesl Malone is a detective with the Municipal Police. After a sleepless night, she is summoned to the Vineyard district to examine a murder scene. Nothing adds up and Malone suspects conspiracy as soon as the city council starts to meddle in her investigation. Few people are willing to speak to her. One of her few sources of real information is Jane Lin, a specialty laundress to the wealthy. Jane is lucky (or unlucky) in her ability to be at the right place at the right time. She overhears key details. She even stumbles onto a body at one point.
Both women pursue the investigation into the murders. Malone has to toe the line, for the most part, but she bends that line as much as possible to dig deeper. Jane befriends fixer Roman Arnault and lets her curiosity run wild. Both are warned away. Both ignore all warnings. The stakes rise. By the end of the book, it’s clear that Ricoletta will never be the same.
I wish that Patel had devoted more time to the setting. Information is strictly controlled in Ricoletta, so her characters don’t know their history. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of details for us, the readers, to piece together the strange underground city. After reading about Derinkuyu, Turkey in Unruly Places, I was keen to see how a fictional underground city would function. Living in caves and tunnels doesn’t seem to have changed the culture very much. Even their food is much like our own. I have to wonder why Patel bothered to bury Ricoletta at all.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 29 July 2014.