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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury

Narrator: Zach Villa


Publisher: Tantor Audio

Publication Date: 10/12/2014

Format: Audio

My Rating: 5 Stars +

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. Carl 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. Aided by his skeptical neighbor, Lila, Joe throws himself into uncovering the truth. Thread by thread, he begins to unravel 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?

Allen Eskens

About the Author

Allen Eskens is a successful criminal defense attorney from Minnesota who has turned his talent and attention to writing highly evocative and engaging fiction—mysteries with a literary edge.

From the author: My name is Allen Eskens and I have a deep passion for writing engaging fiction.

My goal as a writer is to blend creative plots with deep, rich characters. I believe that—as a result of television shows like CSI and Forensic Files—readers have a greater understanding of the investigative process and yearn for stories that challenge them with creative twists as well as intellectual honesty.

But that is only half of the story. An ingenuous plot won't carry a story if the characters do not resonate. I strive to give each character a depth that makes them real to the reader, telling their stories through subplots, giving them a history that make the characters come alive. Add to that mix a fresh narrative voice and a more literary edge than one finds in most plot-driven mysteries and you have the recipe for The Life We Bury.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law. I honed my creative writing skills through the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University as well as classes and seminars at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Website Twitter Goodreads

My Review

Allen Eskens delivers an absorbing literary crime thriller debut of justice and redemption. THE LIFE WE BURY, a title serving as a strong metaphor by the talented author—as the characters attempt to leave some part of themselves behind. They live under the false hope, that they can bury those parts of their lives and move on. Some evils cannot be buried just as the melting of pure white snow, revealing the dark, dirty and ugliness underneath; Justice versus injustice. Good versus evil --Sins, dirty secrets slowly rise to the surface.

Main protagonist, Joe Talbert is an average college student. An ordinary Joe who finds himself in a difficult and ultimately an extraordinary situation. (Loved Joe! Readers will sympathize and root for this driven, well-developed likable character). Growing up with an alcoholic mother and an autistic younger brother Jeremy, Joe was forced to hide excess money in a coffee can, from his mother— in order to leave home and pursue an education at the University of Minnesota. His alcoholic mother, unreliable--unable to provide proper care for his autistic brother, continues to throw out the guilt card, demanding of Joe’s money and his time. He has worked diligently, keeping up his grades, while working as a bouncer in a club. (these skills come in handy later on). He finally manages to escape this family home, with his savings, and currently attends college as the novel opens.

Throughout the book, the mom (you want to strangle her), never learns from her mistakes. From DWI, jail, excessive drinking, picking up bad men, gambling, to leaving her autistic son alone for days, or allowing bad men into their home to be put off by Jeremy. She of course wants the social security money, to maintain her bad habits. She continues to use guilt to manipulate Joe in order to come to her rescue, using what little money he has to bail her out of jail, blackmailing him by saying if she is in jail, he will have to take over sole responsibility of his brother’s care. He loves his brother and spends time with him; however, he also wants to remain in college in order to have money to care for him. So, he finds himself in a less than desirable situation, controlled by the evil mom. In the meantime, Joe’s life is about to dramatically change in ways he cannot comprehend. He does not realize yet, he may turn out to be a hero; however, in order to solve an old mystery, he puts himself and those he loves in a dangerous situation. Joe is writing a paper for school and as his subject for a biography, he chooses a man, Carl in a nursing home. Carl is no ordinary man. He has a complex past (even more so than appears, initially). He was convicted decades earlier of the murder and rape of a 14 year-old girl and recently has been released after a 30 year prison sentence to live out the rest of his days in a nursing home, with pancreatic cancer. Carl agrees to allow Joe to tell his painful story. Carl spent time in Vietnam, with medals of honor, and soon to learn, suffered unbearable tragedies and consequences which haunt him even today. However, there is more to Carl’s story than the evil monster he is portrayed to be. As Joe becomes enthralled with Carl’s story, he is lead down a dangerous path. Was Carl set up? Was he really innocent all these years, and if so, who is the real murderer? While digging into the events surrounding the rape, Joe comes across evidence which may point to Carl’s innocence. He meets the cute gal, Lila Nash living next door (with a past of her own), and the two begin diving into the unsolved complicated mystery of Carl’s past. In the meantime, Joe’s crazy drunken mom dumps off Jeremy at Joe’s apartment and ultimately, Jeremy helps Lila and Joe crack a code in the dead girl’s diary. This could lead them to the real killer! When they take the information to the police, they are not as eager as Joe anticipated to open a closed case. He takes matters into his own hands, with an obsession to clear a man’s name, as a race against time, before he dies. THE LIFE WE BURY, has the WOW factor stamp from the first page to the last—mesmerizing! Allen Eskens takes you on a journey of ordinary people whose lives connect, actions which cannot be buried in the deepest of the winter snow. There is much symbolism and metaphors here, with the snow, the harsh winter, the war, abuse, addiction, sex; good versus evil; thought-provoking. And oh, the twist with the purity and simplicity of Jeremy, the autism was a brilliant addition to the overall storyline. Precision perfect pacing, my head is spinning as how this can be a debut? As I have mentioned previously, am a huge legal and crime fan. Appears all my favorite authors have been/or currently attorneys. This must be a prerequisite for a successful author; thus far--a high percentage! Audiobook now available 6/9/2015! Some books are double the pleasure if you have a good narrator (which can make or break a book). For all you audio obsessed fans (like myself), this one is definitely worth the wait ----exceeding all my expectations! Don’t you love it when the author and the performer are in perfect sync? As in this case, a match made in crime- thriller heaven. Zach Villa, the narrator delivers a stellar performance combined with the author’s incredible plot planning, character development, perfect pacing, and matched with a rare talent and style. Highly recommend, 5 Stars +! An author to you will want to follow. This is one you will not want to miss. Looking forward to reading Eskens' upcoming: The Guise of Another Coming Oct 6, 2015 (hope to land an ARC; not waiting this time-now that I know what is in store) .

Review Links:

The Guise of Another

The Guise of Another

Coming October 6, 2015

The Guise of Another is the follow up to Allen Eskens’ award winning novel, The Life We Bury and seeks to answer the question: Who was James Putnam?

The answer to that question may help Detective Alexander Rupert salvage his wrecked career. A former Medal of Valor winner, Rupert is now under subpoena by a grand jury on suspicion of corruption. Rupert gets the Putnam case and sees within it the opportunity to prove himself and repair his tattered reputation.

But the investigation puts him in the path of a sociopath who has been searching for the missing Putnam for years. And before he knows it, Rupert’s life, which was already in shambles, is now also in danger. As he feels his life spinning out of control, his steadfast brother and fellow police detective Max may be Rupert’s last hope. Read More






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