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Buried Deep (Retrieval Artist Novels, No. 4) by Kristine Kathryn  Rusch
Review by Cathy Green
Roc Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460219
Date: 05 April, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Spoiler Warning: This rest of this review will give away some of the plot. Do not read further is if you wish to remain completely unspoiled. The good news is that if you?ve enjoyed the previous books in the Retrieval Artist series, you?ll enjoy this at least as much?and you might as well just go get the book and read it now.

The novel opens on Mars with Medical Examiner Sharon Scott-Olson arriving at a crime scene in a Disty controlled area of Sahara Dome. Right away it?s clear there?s a problem, since there are no Disty around, not even the Death Squads. For an area to be so contaminated that even the Death Squad won?t go near it indicates a huge problem. The Disty have very complicated rituals relating to death, most of which are handled by Death Squads in order to ensure that there is no contamination or that any contamination that has already occurred will not spread. The body in this case being an unidentified human female skeleton that turned up during excavation of a construction site in a Disty section of Sahara Dome. The discovery so alarmed the Disty that not only did the Death Squad flee, but all the Disty in the nearby building as well. This was enough to alert Scott-Olson and the human police that there was a major problem, but not enough to tell them what the problem was or the extent of it, given how complicated Disty death rituals are. When the ME decides she is out of her league, prominent forensic anthropologist Aisha Costard is summoned from Earth. Unfortunately, Dr. Costard did not familiarize herself with Disty customs before accepted the job and quickly found herself in over her head and under possible sentence of death due to contamination, given that Disty purification rituals would not be survivable under the circumstances.

At this point, a couple chapters in, Noelle DeRicci and Miles Flint, the heroes of the series, have yet to make an appearance, yet the reader is completely engrossed and invested in what will happen to Scott-Olsen and Costard. DeRicci and Flint finally appear at the start of the third chapter, at a ceremony on the Moon in Armstrong Dome honoring DeRicci for having saved the Dome during the events of the previous novel, Consequences. At the ceremony, Flint is in the audience, sparring with reporter Ki Bowles, whose interest in DeRicci and her career becomes a thread running throughout the novel and one of the many viewpoints through which the reader sees the events of the book unfold. DeRicci, despite or perhaps because of her inability to play politics, finds herself appointed to the new position of Chief of Moon Security under the authority of the United Domes of the Moon Council. It?s a case of careful what you wish for, since DeRicci now has the respect she always wanted, but it?s forcing her to go places she doesn?t want to go.

The Mars and Moon storylines start to overlap when the Disty grant Costard permission to go to the Moon to hire a retrieval artist to find the family members of the murdered woman, who was a Disappeared. Flint is the only one willing to hear her out. He is intrigued by the story of the planted body and agrees to take her case and to try to find the children of the murdered woman to help clear the contamination. Unfortunately because it could take years, time Costard doesn?t have, he advises her to Disappear. Costard initially takes his advice but changes her mind and backs out. Unfortunately she is seen by Disty agents and murdered. The murder attracts DeRicci?s attention and also enforces Flint?s sense of obligation to see the matter through. Meanwhile, back on Mars, a large number of bodies have been discovered at the site where the first body was found, leading to the contamination of the entire Sahara Dome and widespread panic among the Disty. The contamination spreads to at least one other dome due to a lack of understanding by the human residents of how contamination is spread, and the Disty start trying to escape from Mars entirely. This leads to DeRicci having to make the controversial decision to close the Moon to the Disty, a decision the Disty approve of but the humans do not.

While the humans are frantically negotiating with the Disty to try to prevent a bad situation from becoming an absolute disaster, and doing a very bad job of it due to a complete lack of cultural understanding (I wondered whether a discussion of how humans think they are well liked but are really disliked due to their inability to understand and properly value the customs of others was meant to be a commentary on the political situation of the U.S. at present), Miles Flint, DeRicci and Scott-Olsen are all frantically trying to figure out what led to the massacre of more than 100 people in the Sahara Dome and whether there are any survivors who could perform the Disty purification rituals. At risk is Earth?s future and humanity?s place in the Alliance.

Buried Deep is an exciting, intricately plotted, fast-paced novel. You?ll find it difficult to put down. Highly recommended for both fans of the Retrieval Artist series and newcomers.

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