Kristine Kathryn Rusch: “Buried Deep” (c) 2005.

“Buried Deep”  (Retrieval Artist #4) (c) 2005   by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The “Retrieval Artist” is a series of SF mystery novels,  set in a futuristic world  of co-existing human and alien civilizations.   “Buried Deep” is  the fourth novel in the SF mystery series .  

In 2003 Rusch won the Endeavour Award for “The Disappeared” (Retrieval Artist #1) (c) 2002.

Each novel is essentially a stand-alone mystery, set in the same futuristic world, and the two principal characters are Miles Flint and Noelle DeRicci.


 The Alliance is a governmental organization, an association of humans and aliens. It exists to handle the complexities and wide range of differences in governments, societies, cultures, beliefs, legal systems, economics, and diplomacy protocols.

The Alliance legal system is a complex one, and in resolving crimes, the law is that anyone who commits a crime against an alien race is subject to the laws of that race. Some of the alien punishments are very harsh, including vengeance killing. “The Disappeared Services” are companies which help people escape from alien justice systems. Trackers are bounty hunters whose purpose is to find “the Disappeared” and return them to face their legal charges. 

Retrieval Artists are private investigators who search for “the Disappeared” but safeguard the whereabouts of the Disappeared. Retrieval Artists have to consider the legal, moral and ethical issues involved in helping any of the Disappeared, who are considered to be criminals in the alien justice system.

Miles Flint is a Retrieval Artist. He was previously a computer specialist, then a police detective and a colleague of Noelle DeRicci, also a detective, in the Armstrong Dome on the Moon. Flint and DeRicci remain friends after Flint leaves the police department.

In the novel, “Buried Deep” (Retrieval Artist #4), Noelle DeRicci is appointed as the Chief of Moon Security, including all the domes and ports on the Moon. Noelle is known for her decisiveness and exceptional abilities in dealing with difficult investigations, including the investigation of the bombing of Armstrong Dome. Her priority in resolution of crisis is to save lives.

The Disty Aliens: their beliefs about death, and its impact on the legal system:

In this novel, the Disty aliens are at the center of human-alien interactions. The Disty are from the Amoma system, and have settled successfully throughout the solar system including Mars and the Moon. The Disty have a deeply rooted fear of death, and they have countless death customs. A Disty who touches or is exposed in some way to a dead body is considered to be “contaminated” – this has to do with the psyche, with cultural beliefs. The very presence of death can lead to panic and flight. A dead body is believed to contaminate the environment. The Disty have various cleansing rituals for different situations and the Disty Death Squad is responsible for the cleansing rituals. In the Disty legal system, the cleansing rituals include nonviolent methods, but also terrifying vengeance killings against anyone who has been exposed to the dead body.

“Buried Deep”:
The story begins on Mars. Both humans and Disty live in the Sahara Dome. The discovery of a human skeleton at a Disty construction site throws the local Disty into a state of panic, as a human death is considered to be a severe contamination.

Sharyn Scott-Olson, the Medical Examiner for the Sahara Dome , and Aisha Costard, a well-known forensic anthropologist and crime analyst from Earth, work together to analyze and identify the skeleton. It is of a human, a woman, who died about 30 years ago, and through bone DNA, she is identified as Lagrima Jorgen. She is one of “The Disappeared”, someone who escaped from a conviction for a crime against an alien. It also appears that Lagrima Jorgen herself was killed.

According to Disty Law, a relative of Jorgen, or her killer, must be found and brought to the Mars site where her body was found, for cleansing rituals to decontaminate the site. Since Sharyn Scott-Olson and Aisha Costard have handled the skeleton, they can be held responsible and face ritual cleansing.
The Disty allow Aisha Costard to go to the Armstrong Dome on the Moon, to search for more information about Jorgen’s family.

On the Moon, Aisha Costard asks Mike Flint for his help, as a Retrieval Artist to find Jorgen’s family. He agrees to investigate the case for the Sahara Dome Human Government. Using his expert computer specialist and investigative skills, Flint uncovers a great deal of information about Jorgen. When  Flint tries to contact Aisha Costard, he discovers she has been  killed in what seem to be an alien vengeance killing. It is possible Costard has been murdered by a human.

At about the same time, the situation at the Sahara Dome on Mars grows grimmer and more perilous, when a human mass grave is discovered deeper under the Martian construction site where Jorgen’s skeleton was found. The Disty flee by the thousands from the death contamination from the Sahara Dome. Their panic and fear spreads to other Disty populations in the other Domes on Mars. A massive refugee crisis begins to build as thousands of Disty head in space ships from Mars to the Moon.

The Disty on the Moon and everywhere in the solar system cannot come in contact with the Martian Disty, as they are now considered to be contaminated. The Disty Government blames the humans for this crisis.

The most important question first is how to avert the thousands of deaths, of Disty and humans.
As Chief of Security on Mars, Noelle acts decisively to close off all Moon ports and space to all incoming spaceships. The Disty officials support her decision as it will avoid contamination of the Moon. The Martian Disty will remain in orbit around the Moon, until either Mars can be cleansed through a ritual cleansing or an uninhabited planet can be found for them, for ritual cleansing and a new life.

It is now imperative to find relatives and/or survivors of the human massacre in the Sahara dome, to carry out the cleansing ritual of the Sahara Dome, and Mars. It is the only way to ensure the survival of both humans and the Disty on Mars.

The Mars massacre occurred ~100 years ago and was a vigilante type killing of a new group of settlers by the Sahara Dome Council. Flint discovers that there are in fact survivors, people who were children at the time. Some of the survivors now live on the Moon. When Noelle receives this information from Flint, she asks the survivors for their help in working with the Disty to resolve the death contamination on Mars. Seven of the survivors agree. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Noelle asks Flint to take the survivors to Mars aboard his space-yacht. One of the survivors is the murderer of Jorgen, the woman whose skeleton was buried on Mars. The murderer tries to kill Flint but with the help of the other six survivors, the murderer is overpowered.

The Disty government informs the human officials that the survivors of the massacre will be involved in nonviolent cleansing rituals. When Flint’s space-yacht is in orbit above Mars, he contacts the Disty Spaceship.

A Disty Death Squad comes aboard Flint’s space-yacht. The survivors understand they are the only hope of averting the deaths of hundreds of thousands of contaminated Disty. They learn from the Death Squad more about the particular cleansing ritual to be carried out on Mars. It is a nonviolent ritual, there are no vengeance killings involved. The survivors will have to sacrifice long periods of their lives, to go through cleansing rituals that will save the lives of the Disty and protect the lives of humans. Flint is impressed as the survivors ably  negotiate with the Disty an agreement that will allow the survivors to visit their families on the Moon periodically.

Only Noelle knows of the critical role that Flint has played in averting a dangerous situation and in saving the lives of humans and aliens.