Sunday, February 14, 2016

Book Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

The Life We Bury

Author: Allen Eskens
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Date of Publication: October 14, 2014
Pages: 303 

   This is an outstanding first novel from Allen Eskens.  The  author has been a practicing defense attorney for twenty years and he uses that experience to craft an intricate plot.  The Life We Bury involves a decades old crime and a potentially innocent man in jail. 

     The story starts with Joe Talbert, a college student at the University of Minnesota who needs to write a biography for an English class.  He interviews Carl Iverson, a resident of a local nursing home.  Carl was convicted for a brutal rape and murder and had just been paroled from prison because of his illness.  As Joe (and the reader) gets to know Iverson the certainty that he committed the crime comes into doubt.

    Joe's life is more complicated than the usual college student.  He has an alcoholic mother and an autistic younger brother who both cause multiple problems and distractions for Joe.  Add to the mix of characters Joe's reclusive (but beautiful) coed neighbor and there is a full and entertaining cast of players.

  The character development, plot and pacing are all excellent.  This novel keeps you guessing.  The author uses just enough descriptions to help the reader visualize settings and his dialogue is very direct.  The only flaw that I see is the actual premise of the story.  That is, I don't know how many college students would become so involved in an English project that they would be consumed with the story and risk life and limb to find the truth.  The two "kids" playing detective kind of has a "Hardy Boys" air about it.  Get past that though, and the reader has an engaging and compelling read.  I look forward to reading the author's next effort: The Guise of Another.

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