Book review: ‘The Shadows We Hide’ by Allen Eskens

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Joseph Talbert, an AP reporter, was in trouble — unfairly, he thought. The story he had written had cost a politician his career and perhaps his marriage. The story had been true, but he had promised his informant that her name would not be released. He stood accused of making up the “facts.” Joe was defenseless; he couldn’t reveal the source, or it would ruin her marriage — he had given his word.

So, when a colleague came across an article saying that Joe Talbert had been murdered, it caught Joe’s attention, even though he was preoccupied. His mother had told him he had been named after his father, a man who had left as soon as he had found out his mother was pregnant. An investigation established that the murdered Joe Talbert was indeed his father, a man so hated for his belligerent behavior that there were many potential suspects.

There was little work for Joe to do because of the impending suit. More than a little curious, he left the Twin Cities for Buckley, Minn., the last address for Joe Talbert Sr. In doing so, he left his girlfriend, Lisa, to care for his autistic brother, Jeremy. Lisa already faced the stress of an upcoming bar exam and was very reluctant to see him go. When Joe arrived in Buckley and had identified himself, he was immediately treated as a suspect in the murder. As it turned out, Joe Sr. had left a substantial estate that he had inherited from his wife’s recent death. The sheriff was especially curious, as Joe Sr.’s brother, Charley, had just shown up in Buckley after the death that promised such a large inheritance. Joe was just an additional suspect.

As the complications developed, Joe was going to have to stay in Buckley for some time and do some investigating. He returned to the Cities to get his brother so that Lisa could study. Since he was an investigative reporter, it was not a stretch that he might learn the details of what had happened, though having his brother along and Uncle Charlie challenging him proved to be problems. It’s here that another element of the story evolves.

Joe’s mother has had a hard life, and thus so have her boys, but maybe …. Much to Joe’s amazement, his mother has become a recovering meth and alcohol addict, and the recovery is for real. She takes over Jeremy’s care, and that leaves Joe with only Uncle Charlie’s challenge, not that it is a small thing, since Charlie intends to get the inheritance.

There are even more shadows to be discovered than this review has suggested. You can find them by reading the Esken’s “The Shadows We Hide.”

Author Allen Eskens will be at the Westby Area Performing Center on Thursday, Aug. 22, as part of Vernon County Reads. The event is free. For more information, contact any public library in Vernon County.

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