Review: The Burial Society by Nina Sadowsky

The Burial Society by Nina Sadowsky is a psychological thriller of obsession and betrayal that follows a woman running from a dark past and stumbling upon a tangled nest of seductions and secrets (available January 30, 2018).

If the pretty cover and snappy title hadn’t already snagged my attention for Nina Sadowsky’s The Burial Society, the premise would have had me:

The mysterious Catherine (no last name) heads The Burial Society, a darknet web designed to vanish people in need of new lives, granting them clean identities and safety in order to escape abusive, dangerous circumstances and start over. When Catherine discovers a past failure may have caused the death of her former client’s husband, she finds herself swept up in helping her client’s family, attempting to make amends for her past mistake.

The first chapter starts in strong, with Catherine “kidnapping” her newest client and throwing us right into the action.

I can do this. I will do this.

I’ve done this many times before. And under trickier circumstances, I reassure myself. I’ve calculated timing and approach, extraction and escape. It will be hazardous, perhaps fatal—if not for the benevolent graces of luck and perfect timing.

But it’s what the client ordered, and the customer is always right. Plus, the payoff? Huge. I don’t care about the money, but there will be other rewards for me in this.

Why am I so nervous?

I hate the waiting. Gives me too much time to think. My heart thuds in my chest.

Focus.

I scan the street.

[…]

I’ve done my homework. I always do. The facts check out. The first installment, a direct deposit to a Swiss bank account, is confirmed. I’ve followed my target for two weeks now without being detected. I’ve assessed her patterns and habits and, perhaps more important, those of the bodyguard who is never far from her side. I’ve enlisted Delphine as my driver for the day. Always grateful for her steady, silent acquiescence to plans and payment.

I move into position.

Given the cover copy, I’d been prepared for a high-stakes spy novel. The leading lady caught in her own web and unable to disentangle herself, risking everything she’s worked for—including the life she’s built for herself—when a past mistake returns to haunt her. I love the notion of the Burial Society as a whole, and I love that it’s run by a woman. What I didn’t expect was the narrative to cross multiple points of view and span a couple different timelines.

We have Catherine, our spy, and then three members of the Burrows family: Natalie, a young woman struggling with depression and an eating disorder; Jake, her older brother; and Frank, their uncle. While Catherine is extricating a Russian supermodel from her abusive arms dealer husband, Natalie comes home to her family’s Paris apartment to find her father murdered.

In an act of happenstance, Catherine passed the family previously on the street, where she recognized in Natalie the face of the client she failed. You see, three years prior, Natalie’s mother, Mallory, had appealed to The Burial Society for rescue but ended up a missing person when Catherine failed to make their appointment.

Though each well-written, the multiple points of view slowed the narrative for me. It became more of a gradual unravel, picking up scraps of information here and there. I found myself dragged out of the story more than once when Catherine alluded to “stories for another time” or “meeting so-and-so later” or “things [I] didn’t need to know.” Then why mention them?

I still enjoyed Catherine’s voice, and honestly, I wish the book had been hers alone. The three other characters didn’t add anything crucial to the plotline that Catherine couldn’t have said or seen herself, and what little we do get of Catherine’s backstory is intriguing.

After multiple hints, we discover she created the Burial Society to spirit herself away after leaving “The Farm.” I assume she’s referring to The Farm compound in Tennessee—a nonviolent, hippie commune. The televised 1980 raid on the compound is the reason Catherine misses her connection with Mallory and why she blames herself for Mallory’s disappearance. While intriguing, I would have liked a better picture of how Catherine came to create her network.

It wasn’t fast-paced as I’d hoped, but it was a decent light read—even though I found most of the details implausible. Sadly, the plot just doesn’t add up, and the reveal of the killer—specifically the reasons the killer turned to murder—left a poor taste in my mouth. Additionally, I do think there should be a trigger warning concerning mental illness and the way it’s handled here, especially with self-harm very present and detailed through multiple chapters.

I wish the book had been closer to what the blurb promised, but if you’re looking for a quick and entertaining read, this one might just do the trick.

 

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Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at ExquisitelyOdd.com.

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