“The Shadows We Hide,” by Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens

Reviewed by Johnnie Bernhard

Joe Talbert, Jr., returns in The Shadows We Hide, the sequel to The Life We Bury. Now an investigative reporter, he not only solves a small-town murder in Minnesota, but does so while solving the mystery of his own family’s past.

Readers will be entertained by this multi-tier plot of murder, missing fathers, the definition of family, and a love story—all accomplished with just the right pacing.

Allen Eskens, the author, a native of small-town Minnesota, writes with a strong sense of place, setting the narrative in and around the fictional Buckley, Minnesota, with its quaint anchors of the Snipe’s Nest, the Caspen Inn, Dub’s Repair, and surrounding farmlands. Eskens provides, as well, thoughtful insights into dysfunction and reconciliation in a troubled family—and with “whodunit” intrigue.

The investigation and scene of the murder are in Buckley, which is full of blue-collar characters and farmers that could have been, but in Eskens’s deft telling are not, stereotypical and one-dimensional.

Austin is also part of the narrative. It’s where Joe Talbert, Jr., recalls his troubled childhood and his final conversation with his mother in a courtroom.  The weaving of these two plots and settings—that of Buckley and that of Austin—propel the novel to its surprising conclusion. But who could forget, as well, the love story in St. Paul?

A career criminal defense attorney, Eskens knows crime, criminals, and criminality.  The fictional criminals who populate his novel inflict pain with horrible tenacity.  And the townspeople have lived with that pain, making a few of them possible suspects in the murder of one criminal.

Joe Talbert, Jr., remains the likeable hero throughout the novel, repeatedly reaching right decisions based on his journalism ethics and his love for his younger, autistic brother.

An award-winning author, Eskens delivers again in The Shadows We Hide, a classic, middle-American good-over-evil story.

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