Eskens’ competent thriller starts off slowly as he builds his characters’ backgrounds and personalities. The story is compelling – Joe Talbert, a college student dealing with an autistic brother and an irresponsible mother, is on deadline to complete a writing assignment requiring him to interview a stranger and the subject he is forced to accept is a convicted murderer, dying in a nursing home. Carl Iverson’s crime was hideous – raping a young girl and burning her body – but while the Vietnam vet admits to being a killer, he maintains he is not a murderer. Joe is determined to find the truth in that statement but he also has to protect his little brother from their drunken mother. The adrenaline builds as Joe plays private investigator, a role that will put his life in serious danger.
Joe’s quick-thinking survival skills are so clever as to be farfetched, given his background, and the resolution is Hollywood-worthy but, overall, The Life We Bury offers good characterization and solid plotting for a thriller with a serious tone, occasionally lightened by Joe’s interactions with his brother.
Readalikes: Harlen Coben’s thrillers (likable protagonist; issue-oriented; investigative/adrenaline)