Keith Hartman,
Murder Beneath the Buried Sky
(Pyramid Press, 2011)

In the novel Murder Beneath the Buried Sky, Calvin is a young man who has never seen the sun. Apparently, a couple decades back, mankind finally blew itself and the surface world to smithereens by engaging in all-out nuclear war. Fortunately, his town's founder had the foresight to take a group of survivalists into a cave system where they were able to build prefab buildings, there was running water to produce limited electricity and for everyday needs, and with the help of sunlamps, they could grow the food necessary to sustain the population. In this small town, every person had a purpose, as most communities can't function without someone doing the grunt work.

Whenever you have groups of people, you invariably have personality conflicts. And whenever you have a teenager, you ultimately have a kid who goes through at least some time period when they don't exactly like their parents. Calvin is a young man who is not best buds with his father. So when his dad is discovered murdered, Calvin becomes the primary suspect. In fact, he is the only suspect.

Calvin spends the majority of the book barely staying one step ahead of the ruling counsel, which wants to pin the murder on him. He has to prove his innocence and find the real killer. With the world's entire population in this cave system, Calvin might be the smartest detective on the planet. Although, truth be told, he tends to stumble through his sequence of discoveries more than showcase any true intellectual genius. In the end, he uncovers much more than why and who ended his father's life. But those tidbits of info are left for the reader.

Keith Hartman is not only an author, but also a budding director. I have reviewed two of his prior novels here at Rambles -- The Gumshoe, the Witch, & the Virtual Corpse and Gumshoe Gorilla -- both of which I quite liked. I am not as familiar with Hartman's film work, which includes the movie You Should Meet My Son! along with several commercials. Hartman grew up in Northern Alabama and resides in Los Angeles, where I hope he is working on more novels. He has a sharp wit and a wicked writing style.

Hartman mentions that he loosely based his story on Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Essentially, Plato asks one to imagine a person whose whole existence has been in a cave facing a wall. Behind there is a fire and between the fire and this initial individual other people and animals walk, casting shadows on the wall. This person's entire worldview is based upon these shadows. At some point, this individual makes it outside where he sees the sun and the real world for the first time. At first, Plato essentially claims, this individual would be overwhelmed and not truly believing what is really real. But over time, their perceptions would readjust to their new reality. While this synopsis does not do the allegory justice, it might give you a clue on where Hartman's story is headed.

Murder Beneath the Buried Sky is a fun read. It is quick as there are only 141 pages. And, like Hartman's prior books I've reviewed, the writing easily carries the reader along such that you will turn the pages faster than you realize. His quirky characters are always intriguing, if not mostly believable. With the Mayans supposedly predicting the end of the world at the end of this year, one could easily imagine a tale of this nature actually happening. I don't think I would want to live my entire life living underground, but for a short peak at what it might be like -- along with a murder mystery to share the ride -- Murder Beneath the Buried Sky is a great little read.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Wil Owen

7 April 2012

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new