For the past few years, Seventh Street Books has had an incredible knack for finding new talent. Terry Shames and Mark Pryor are just two names they’ve introduced to the genre. With The Life We Bury, Seventh Street introduces a new author to watch, Allen Eskens.
The plot of The Life We Bury is something akin to a good Grisham-style thriller. Joe Talbert, a poor Minnesota University student with an autistic brother and alcoholic mother from hell, is assigned to do a biography on someone for his English class. To make the piece stand out, he chooses Carl Iverson, a man living the last days of his life in nursing home with pancreatic cancer after being imprisoned over thirty years for the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. Joe is skeptical about Carl’s claim of innocence, although the old man admits to have both “killed and murdered” in his life, but with the help of Virgil, Carl’s buddy from Vietnam, and his inquisitive neighbor, Lila, he uncovers truths that could both substantiate those claims and cause considerable danger for Joe and his friends.
In his debut, Eskens shows his skill as a storyteller. The pacing could be set to a metronome and the style is clean and accessible. He finds fresh takes on puzzle pieces for the story and knows when to present them.
More than anything, he gets us involved his characters, not just Joe and Carl, but those around him. He even brings life to the victim. He is unafraid to take time from the plot and look into the lives of his people, realizing they will be dealing with the messiness of their day to day and past as well as mystery. It makes the reader truly care for them when those lives are threatened.
Allen Eskens is a perfect fit for Seventh Street. He writes a smart, fresh mainstream thriller that knows how to grab a reader. He also knows that character is key. Looks like they found another good one for us.
The Life We Bury is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.