This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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…”
This book took me a while to get into, and it’s a little hard to pint down why. The setting is interesting and the story seems solid enough. I think my issue was that readers get thrown into a very different world with very little warning, and as a result, I had some difficulty getting immersed in the action. In and of itself, the setting is good: a mix of steampunk and dystopian, with some hints of Victorian and Gothic thrown in for good measure. And it is all contained in an underground version of London that grew up after a nebulous catastrophe.
I think I would have liked more worldbuilding, and earlier in the book, to see this as a more gripping novel. The hints that Patel gives, when taken on their own, are fascinating. As I write this, I realize that the characters and what they are trying to achieve in the story aren’t all that compatible with really digging into what makes this world tick. They can move on the periphery of all of that juicy backstory, but they never quite get close enough to provide more than tantalizing glimpses of cool stuff. Or if they do get close to it, as they do near the end of the book, it’s far too late to contribute to drawing readers in.
Although I think the characters don’t help with the worldbuilding, I did like them. Malone, the inspector, and Jane, the laundress, are strong characters who nevertheless have believable weaknesses. I wish I had gotten to know more about them and get a better sense of them as people. Again, I think this shows a disconnect with the plot, because the story isn’t really conducive to getting to know them better, but what I saw, I liked.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but starts slow and suffers somewhat from both that and lack of worldbuilding woven into this first novel. The Buried Life is interesting enough that I would recommend it, but it isn’t without its flaws.