‘The Life We Bury’: You’ll want to dig into this mystery (Review)


Jillian Grimes

DIG IN: ‘The Life We Bury’ is a 2014 mystery by Allen Eskens, that since then has been in development for a feature film.

I have always had a love for a good mystery, whether it be a movie, TV show, or a book. The twists and turns that no one saw coming, the scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense along with the necessity of knowing how the storyline ends. 

The novel The Life We Bury, written by Allen Eskens, gives you all of those experiences and more. A fictional mystery centered around the hectic life of Minnesota college student Joe Talbert, we later see that he ends up interviewing and building a bond with sick and dying, convicted murderer Carl Iverson,  a Vietnam veteran, all because of an autobiography for his English class. All while trying to clean up a messy home life with a physically abusive stepfather for his autistic brother, Jeremy, and juggling school on top of that.

 Joe, from the beginning, takes a profound interest in the grittiness of Carl’s case and digs into every single detail of it, from the fake nail left on Carl’s front steps to the fire in his shed that Carl swears he didn’t start, with the assistance of his dorm neighbor and crush Lila. 

Joe and Lila dig deeper into Carl’s case, through old case files, including diary entries infested with code, such as “Terrible day today. 7, 22, 13, 1, 14, 6, 13, 25, 17, 24, 26, 21, 22, 19, 19, 3, 19. I am freaked out. This is very bad.” The diaries belonged to Crystal, the murder victim.  While digging into all of these resources, along with talking directly to Carl about the case, Joe finds shocking information that will change the entirety of the case. 

This novel is so beautifully written and the imagery that Eskens creates is astonishing. Throughout the whole novel, you feel as though you are watching the scenes go on right before your eyes as if you are someone watching this all happen from a third-person perspective. There is so much detail put into these page-turning situations. That being said, at some points, all of the information can be a challenge to fully wrap your head around, due to there being so much going on in certain scenes.

The growth and chemistry between the characters, primarily between Joe and Lila, is stunning to watch unfold, from being awkward dorm neighbors to being each other’s “partners in crime.” And the slow but certain friendship that flourishes between Joe and Carl is definitely an interesting part of the read that I personally didn’t see coming. 

Altogether this novel is definitely a page-turner, I have never been a big fan of reading but once I got started on this book I could not stop, I had to know what came next. 


Rating: 8.5/10