STARRED REVIEW
July 16, 2019

Buried

By Mark Billingham

The second book in the Special Agent Sayer Altair series delves deep into the mind of a monster, creating an immersive and chilling experience while following a FBI neuroscientist who studies serial killers.

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The second book in the Special Agent Sayer Altair series delves deep into the mind of a monster, creating an immersive and chilling experience while following a FBI neuroscientist who studies serial killers.

Following up directly where Caged left off, Buried finds Sayer recovering from a gunshot wound—and facing political fallout from her last case in which she exposed a horrible secret within the FBI. Then the gruesome discovery of a mass gravesite in the Shenandoah National Forest pulls Sayer off desk duty and back into the field, but with extremely limited resources. With only a few park rangers and two FBI agents to assist her, Sayer throws herself into the case as a way to avoid coping with her recent trauma.

The bones, and one recent body, tell a macabre story: A serial killer was active in the area for eight years until 2002, only to begin killing again now. Even more troubling is the report of a missing woman whose description matches the profile of the other victims.

As the case begins to build steam, Sayer is drawn into an increasingly dark and melodramatic gothic nightmare. The landscape of the Shenandoah National Forest, with its hidden mines and cave systems, becomes a character itself, as the villain emerges from the shadows to terrorize Sayer’s team, only to vanish again. Small-town secrets and long-held feuds also threaten to derail the investigation. Cooper’s focus on atmosphere gives the novel the tight pacing of a thriller, while also producing a constant feeling of unease more typically found in the horror genre. This is not the book for a cozy mystery fan.

Sayer stands out in a largely whitewashed genre as a woman of color, and her awareness of how her race affects others’ perceptions of her is present but never overly evangelized to the reader. Resourceful and self-possessed, she triumphs even when the odds are stacked against her. When evidence leads her to theorize that a woman who went missing from the area years ago—and who happens to be the local police chief’s sister—may be involved in the killings, she finds herself frozen out by both the FBI and local law enforcement.

By depriving Sayer of departmental resources and deus ex machina forensic breakthroughs, the narrative focuses on her brilliant profiling and detective skills, making Buried feel like an old fashioned whodunit as the reader pieces the clues together along with Sayer.

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Buried

Buried

By Mark Billingham
HarperCollins
ISBN 9780061255694

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