Epeolatry Book Review: Body Farm Z


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Title: Body Farm Z
Author: Deborah Sheldon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Severed Press
Release Date: 17.8.19

Synopsis: To solve murders, you must understand the process of decomposition. Australia’s newest body farm, the Victorian Taphonomic Experimental Research Institute, is hidden in bushland some four hours’ drive from Melbourne. Scattered across its 150 acres are human donor cadavers and pig carcasses arranged to mimic some of the ways in which police might find murder victims: exposed to the elements, buried in a shallow grave, wrapped in tarpaulin. Forensic scientists and graduate students meticulously track each stage of putrefaction. Today, Detective Rick Evans of the Homicide Squad is at VITERI for the re-creation of one of his cold cases. A human donor will be locked inside a car. But the donor has other ideas… So begins a facility-wide outbreak of the reanimated dead.

“Madam?” he whispered….

She fixed her gaze on him and bared her teeth.

This is a zombie thriller which breaks a few of the genre’s tropes:- it’s set in the outback in Australia (a four hour drive from Melbourne) for a start, and utilises the Australian flora and fauna as an important part of the storyline; so straight away the zombie outbreak isn’t happening in  shopping centres or cities. The zombies are in various states of decay so they’re not homogeneous; some are faster than others. Just like humans. The guy who takes charge, well he’s not that capable really, just an ordinary cop out of his depth and there’s no military help on hand at the Victorian Taphonomic Experimental Research Institute (VITERI) – a site so secret it doesn’t have an address. 

Deborah Sheldon has written a fast moving, entertaining, high octane adventure ride of a novel. It starts off as a straightforward police forensics thriller – where a pair of Aussie cops ( likeable Rick Evans and his loquaciously irritating partner) are visiting a ‘Body Farm’ as part of their day job. A Farm is where large numbers of cadavers are scattered around and/or buried and thereafter scientifically examined for decay etc. by the team of scientists on staff, in order to help solve  murders. This is a bit weird but feasible. 

But then the story gets a whole lot weirder, as the narrative tilts and tips the reader right into an on-site zombie outbreak (what’s dropping from the strange clouds gathering over the farm?) and from now on the Farm’s staff and the visiting cops have to adapt very fast to fighting the undead – some of whom are pretty nippy, some less so. But none of them are friendly.

So this is now a full-on zombie novel, including a cast of zombie birds and possums and other animals (zombie kangaroo anyone?)

In an unusual twist, Sheldon has written one of the characters, a Prof, (who is amongst those who gets bitten) in such a way that we get to follow his zombie transformation from inside his own head, and how he sees/feels it. This draws you in and builds up empathy with one of the zombies, because for the Prof. and his friends, it’s a tragedy and we really feel for him. 

Deborah Sheldon writes with total confidence and builds up what seems at first an unlikely scenario skilfully, she blends in dollops of scientific language and research and fills the narrative with 3D characters you can root for- two of my favourites, being Stella (the Institute’s secretary) and Walter. Her female characters are feisty and hold their own too. No shrinking violets here.

The ending may not offer every reader satisfactory closure, but I thought it effective and maybe leaves the door open for a sequel?

This is enormous fun and if you like horror, zombies, thrillers, action, cold cases, and lots of excitement then download this novel.

Yes worth the buy.

5/5 stars

Available on Book Shop and Amazon.

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1 Response

  1. Thanks for a great review!