The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen PhillipsTitle:  The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Author:  Helen Phillips
Release Date:  August 11, 2015
Publisher:  Henry Holt & Company
Source:  Publisher provided eARC

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. 

After a long period of joblessness, she’s not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings – the office’s scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.

As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine’s work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. (Goodreads)

My Review:

The Beautiful Bureaucrat is an odd little story that left me scratching my head.

Josephine takes a job entering numbers into a database. After several months of unemployment, she’s not going to complain about her new boring job or ask any unnecessary questions. But there were several questions she didn’t ask that left me wondering what was going on in her head.

For instance, she never asked her interviewer’s name or title. She even acknowledged that she missed her opportunity to ask his name, but I found that odd. I mean, wouldn’t you ask his name on day one? And no one gave her a tour of her new workplace, so why not ask her new boss where the break room was instead of knocking on doors?


Her relationship with her husband also left me scratching my head. They were no longer newlyweds, so I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t demand to know where he disappeared to when he didn’t come home one night. I mean, who wouldn’t freak out if their partner doesn’t come home? Then no explanation? That struck a false chord with me.

Josephine seemed way too passive for my tastes and I wound up not liking her. She lets too many things slide and has odd reactions to what’s going on around her. I mean, who wouldn’t wash the sheets in a sublet before sleeping on them? Especially white sheets that were now a dingy grey? That one stuck with me and maybe it’s just me, but yuck!

Mildly annoyed with the main character’s habit of word play, she also seemed to have a few hallucinations that weren’t really explained. But at least she was more developed than the other characters, which isn’t saying much.

The premise of this story held so much promise, but sort of petered out with an anti-climatic ending. I was really looking forward to seeing what would happen next, but was ultimately let down. A disappointing read overall, but it did have some nice descriptive passages that showcased the author’s potential. Will be curious to see what Phillips does next.

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