Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Life We Bury

by Allen Eskens
300 pgs

Joe Talbert is a 21-year-old student at the University of Minnesota. He saved up enough money to move out of his home and leave his alcoholic and verbally-abusive mother and autistic younger brother in Austin, Minnesota to attend school, where he's working hard, trying to get good grades and make ends meet. When he's given an assignment in his English class to find someone and write their biography, he decides to visit a nearby nursing home to find an interesting subject for the assignment.

It's there that he meets Carl Iverson, an old man who had been convicted of raping and killing a 14-year-old girl thirty years ago. Carl now has pancreatic cancer and was recently paroled in order to live out his remaining weeks under the care of the nurses there.

As Joe begins interviewing Carl, he learns of the two Purple Hearts and the Silver Cross he was awarded for his military service in Vietnam. He meets Carl's friend Virgil, who served with Carl, and whose life Carl saved. Virgil is the only friend Carl has, and is convinced Carl is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of committing. Carl maintains his own innocence as well, but has resigned himself to accepting the way his life played out. he tells Joe he agreed to let him write his biography as a "dying declaration," promising that everything he tells him will be the truth, but he must promise to write it.

As Carl tells Joe his story, Joe becomes increasingly convinced of Carl's innocence, and the writing assignment becomes secondary to trying to prove his innocence and exonerate him before he dies.

The Life We Bury is the first book written by Allen Eskens and I strongly recommend it. It's a solid mystery. At times, it's edge-of-your-seat reading, at other times, it's thought-provoking and emotional. Eskens is an author solidly on my radar now. I'm looking forward to picking up his next two books and hoping they're as good as his debut.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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