Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Under Ground

Title: Under Ground
Author: S.L. Grey
Pages: 352
ISBN: 9781447266488
Publisher: Macmillan
Published: 2015
Genre: Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

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The Sanctum is a luxurious, self-sustaining survival condominium situated underground in rural Maine. It's a plush bolt-hole for the rich and paranoid - a place where they can wait out the apocalypse in style. When a devastating super-flu virus hits the States, several families race to reach it. All have their own motivations for entering The Sanctum. All are hiding secrets.

But when the door locks and a death occurs, they realize the greatest threat to their survival may not be above ground - it may already be inside . . .

What could be more terrifying than a deadly pandemic? For the inhabitants of The Sanctum, a luxurious underground condominium it’s the realisation that they are trapped with a murderer on the prowl.

Under Ground is superb psychological thriller written by the writing duo of Louis Greenberg and Sarah Lotz and centers around a disparate group of characters as they take refuge inside The Sanctum. It soon becomes apparent that The Sanctum is hardly the haven the brochures promised. Their doomsday hideaway turns into a living nightmare when a body is discovered. Not only does it mean that there’s a killer on the loose, but the residents are trapped inside the bunker with no way out.

As the situation spirals out of control everyone becomes a suspect. The claustrophobic environment, constant fear and uncertainty take their toll on the characters. When the veneer of civilization falls apart desperation can lead people to do terrible things. There are no monsters here, only men, but as we all know mankind is the most ruthless monster of them all.

The large cast of characters are captivating, a microcosm of our society crammed into the confines of The Sanctum, each offering their own secrets and motivations to discover. While some characters ran the danger of becoming stereotypes (the religious zealot hillbillies, the Asian gamer) they were still engaging and perhaps, on a deeper level, a very deliberate commentary on our current society. The first person narrative helps to get the reader into the mind of each character and with very little exposition allows the world and events to unfold in a seamless way.

Being a murder mystery, S.L. Grey manages to deftly weave an ocean’s worth of red herrings into the narrative. Just when you think you’ve finally figured out who the killer is something happens to disabuse you of that notion. It’s only at the very end, when the identity of the murderer is finally revealed, that you discover it’s the very last person you’d ever suspect.

Where Under Ground truly shines is in the unexpected open-ended finale. I was completely blown away by the ending. While some people might not find it very satisfying I loved the fact that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. A second life indeed!

The Verdict:
Under Ground is a fast-paced psychological thriller that will keep you trapped in its claustrophobic grip from the very first page of the spine-chilling prologue until the stunning, open-ended finale. If you are looking for a murder mystery with a post-apocalyptic twist, then look no further. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Eileen from Pan Macmillan S.A. for providing the review copy.

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