Book Review | “The Life We Bury”

Review ByCapture-2
Leah Cooper

“His dying declaration……that’s what he called it. It’s a statement that’s true because you don’t want to die with a lie on your lips.” The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens immediately caught my attention. College student Joe Talbert has a writing assignment to interview a stranger and write a brief biography.

With the deadline fast approaching, the local nursing home seems like a good place to find a stranger, hopefully one with a story good enough for Joe to get a decent grade. Joe gets more than he expected when he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran who has been medically paroled after spending 30 years in prison for raping and murdering a
young woman.

Both Carl and his friend Virgil claim Carl’s innocence. After Virgil tells Joe how Carl saved his life in Vietnam, Joe struggles with reconciling Carl’s heroism with the grisly crime scene photos he views while reviewing the trial record. As Joe interviews Carl, we also come to know Joe, a good-hearted kid from a tough home environment.

His mother is bipolar and an alcoholic with little interest in caring for her two sons. His brother Jeremy is a teenager, but functions on a seven-year-old’s level due to his autism. His home life responsibilities stretch Joe thin as he moves from completing an English class assignment to actively searching to determine if Carl might actually be innocent.

And if Carl is innocent, can he be exonerated before he dies? As the story unfolds, we learn of buried secrets and burdens both men carry. The characters are well-developed and interesting; they are people the reader can care about. The story builds intensity as any good mystery should.

This is Allen Eskens’ debut novel, and it received many accolades, including the Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award for Best Debut Mystery, the 2015 Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel and the Minnesota Book Award Finalist for Best Genre Novel.

In the words of The Big Thrill, the International Thriller Writers Magazine, The Life We Bury is “An intelligent and compelling story with characters that will captivate you from the start…This debut novel never lets the reader off the edge of the seat – the mark of a good story.”

Come in to Jefferson Carnegie Library to check out this thriller or one of the many excellent books that fill our shelves to overflowing.

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