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Author: J.A. Kerley

Title: Buried Alive

Publisher: Harper

Paperback: 376 pages

ISBN: 978-0-00-732813-0

Price: £6.99

Publication Date: 14/10/2010

Regular readers of this blog will know my feelings on crime fiction detectives taking holidays – it never turns out well. So when Jack Kerley’s detective, Carson Ryder, is the ‘lucky’ winner of a week’s vacation in a remote area of the Appalachian Mountains it’s no surprise that the trip isn’t as relaxing as Carson had anticipated. For his climbing and hiking is soon interrupted by a mysterious phone call that leads him to the scene of a gruesome crime [a man has been brutally murdered by having an industrial soldering iron rammed up his fundament – very Edward II!].

Rarely in a Kerley novel [if ever] is the death count kept low, and Buried Alive is no exception. Soon more corpses are discovered viciously murdered, with the police having been led to each successive site by GPS co-ordinates sent by person[s] unknown. Carson can’t keep away, and soon finds himself embroiled in the case and assisting local detective Donna Cherry – whose Screech Owl-like voice and slightly lazy eye make her anything but the conventional love interest. And – as is so often the case in crime fiction – their investigation is hampered not only by a lack of leads but also by the interference of those pesky ol’ Feds.

Carson Ryder is a solid lead character, humorously described as resembling a 36-year-old escapee from a Jimmy Buffett concert [although this, slightly disconcertingly, never seems to affect his ability to woo women]. However, as is always the case when he appears in one of Kerley’s novels, it is actually Carson’s psychopathic brother Jeremy who steals the show. Despite the fact that he is an escaped convict and should really be hiding from the police, Jeremy seems to have gone out of his way to ingratiate himself with the local community and even helps out Carson and the local police in their search for the psychopath in the woods [the irony of this situation is not lost on the reader]. Indeed, Jeremy also provides a lot of the humour in the novel – at one point Carson discovers him in his house ‘playing’ the stock markets. In order to get into the role Jeremy has dressed-up as the very stereotype of a Wall Street trader in a suit and braces and is making a killing [so to speak!].

The pace doesn’t drop in Buried Alive and the murders are suitably gory and ingenious in an evil kind of way [you really do have to question how crime authors come up with them!]. My only slight complaint was with how the question of how Jeremy made the money to be able to set himself up as a doctor is posed by Carson but then completely forgotten about. My hope is that it will be returned to in future novels in the series [and that Carson’s partner Harry Nautilus, who is almost completely absent from this novel, will return to a more central role]. Overall though Buried Alive is fast, furious and a lot of fun.
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