Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Joe Talbert is not crazy about the English assignment he's been given.  It's a semester long assignment and he has to write a memoir of someone's life.  Joe has enough on his plate.  Money is desperately tight so he is always scrimping and saving so that he can afford college on his own, working nights as a bouncer in a bar and never knowing when he will get called back home.  Home is an erratic mother who is promiscuous and a partier, who will go out of town with a boyfriend and leave Joe's autistic brother, Jeremy, to fend for himself.

But an assignment is an assignment so he heads to a local nursing home to interview his subject.  He has been given Carl Iverson.  Joe is shocked to find out that Carl has just been released from prison after many years as he is in the last stages of cancer and the state has decided he can die in the nursing home.  He was imprisoned for raping and killing a young teenage girl.  Joe is loath to meet him but finds him not as intimidating as he feared.  Instead he is a sick old man but one who, as Joe delves into his story, may be innocent of the crime he has served his life in jail for.

As Joe starts to suspect that Carl was framed, things begin to happen.  Most of the girl's family and friends still live in town and none of them are pleased that the story is being looked at again.  As Joe gets closer to the truth, he becomes a danger to the true killer.  Will he find out the truth before someone puts an end to him?

This is a debut novel and a very strong one.  Joe is a likeable protagonist; his social conscience and his determination to make the world a better place are strong characteristics.  Joe's love for his brother and his refusal to cast him aside make for a good secondary plotline, as does his budding romance with the girl down the hall.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

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