College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same.
Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.
As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.
Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?
It’s not particularly often that my wife reads and enjoys any of the books that cross my path. Whilst I endeavour to read what she reads (eventually) she doesn’t feel the same need to reciprocate, nor should she. Our last shared and loved book in common was Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins last year, until Eskens debut The Life We Bury fell into her hands after mine.
Fair to say we both loved it and it was fun checking in on her progress as she devoured it knowing what was in store.
A college assignment morphs into an investigation into a 30 year old murder mystery, that touches on a lot of things…..family, relationships, affection, abuse, parenting, autism, communication, guilt, loyalty, friendships, Vietnam, war, death, alcohol abuse, cancer……….and a whole lot of other things besides.
Great story line, superb characters that you care about, especially Joe and his neighbour Lila. I think the family dynamics and the evolving relationship between Joe and Lila and the part Jeremy unwittingly played was one of the most satisfying parts of the book. A close second to that would be the developing friendship between our murdering, cancer-stricken, veteran Carl and Joe.
I do like the odd book where the investigation into the mystery is conducted by a non-professional sleuth. It makes for a refreshing change from the police or more usually PI books, I read. Eskens arranged an interesting puzzle, which I was keen to see resolved, which it was.
Intriguing, entertaining, gripping and totally satisfying.
Definitely recommended if you like your mysteries, on the whole fairly straightforward, but with a lot of character and heart.
Debut author Eskens has two new fans in the UK!
5 from 5
Allen Eskens hails from the US. His website is here.
The Life We Bury is on sale from October 14th, 2014. Many thanks to Seventh Street Books for my copy. Their website is here.