Cover Image: The Shadows We Hide

The Shadows We Hide

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The beloved characters he introduced in The Life We Bury return in author Allen Eskens' follow up, The Shadows We Hide. 

As the story opens, Joe has been Jeremy's guardian for five years. After Joe rescued Jeremy from their mother's home where he was subjected to abuse by Kathy's boyfriend, Larry, Jeremy never returned to that residence. He has lived with Joe and Lila, who is studying for the upcoming Bar examination, while Joe works as a reporter for the Associated Press. His recent story about an incident of domestic violence involving State Senator Todd Dobbins, based upon information obtained from an anonymous source, has netted a lawsuit in which Joe and the Associated Press have been named as defendants. Joe laments that a week earlier he and his boss, Allison, "discussed whether my article would be submitted for Pulitzer consideration. Now we were talking about the end of my career." 

The timing is somewhat fortuitous, though, because Allison gives Joe a press release about the murder of a man named Joe Talbert, along with a mug shot. Although his father has always meant "less than nothing" to Joe, at that moment, "the myth that was my father began to grow flesh and bones." Because they agree that it is a good time for Joe to take a leave of absence -- while the lawsuit plays out -- Joe has time to dig into the dead man's past and determine whether he was, in fact, Joe's biological father.

Joe finds that Joseph "Toke" Talbert's criminal history included punching Joe's mother in the stomach while she was carrying him -- because Kathy refused to have an abortion. He is compelled to travel to Buckley when he learns that Toke's wife, Jeannie, took her own life just six months earlier, and they had a daughter, Angel. He realizes that his fourteen-year-old half-sister has, with Toke's death, been rendered an orphan and is now all alone in the world. Lila protests that she simply cannot take time out from her studies to care for Jeremy alone, but Joe will not be deterred. "All of my life I had been pretending that I didn't care if my father existed, but now that he might be dead, he became real to me. Learning about the death of this man had ripped open the rotted planks that I had used to hide him." And one sad truth became apparent: "I wanted to know my father."

Thus, Eskens takes readers along on Joe's fast-paced journey to the truth that is hiding in a little Minnesota town called Buckley. With Jeremy in tow, he takes a room at the town's only motel and gets acquainted with the bartender, Vicky, a native, who fills him in on much of the history between Toke and the town's other residents. That includes the death of Vicky's own mother and the lingering bitterness her father harbored for Toke, who inherited the adjacent farm that belonged to his late wife's family. But Toke swindled others, and was generally despised by the people of Buckley, as well as his own brother, Charlie, who has arrived on the scene, as well. While Angel's life hangs in the balance, Joe finds himself in one precarious situation after another as he explores old resentments and rivalries, and hires a quintessential small-town attorney, Bob Mullens, to help him navigate the legal complications.

Eskens again spotlights the tender, protective relationship Joe has with his brother, Jeremy, as well as his complicated feelings for their mother, Kathy, in a compassionate, believable manner. Lila's commitment to Joe is also tested as she struggles to maintain her focus on the culmination of her education and the need to pass the all-important Bar examination. And Eskens deftly keeps readers guessing about what really happened to Toke, as well as Jeannie and Angel, injecting shocking plot developments and legal twists at expertly-timed intervals. The closer Joe gets to finding out the truth, the more danger he finds himself in. Eskens again illustrates that Joe is resilient and clever as he calculates how to survive.

Ultimately, at its core, The Shadows We Hide is a touching exploration of the myriad ways in which family histories impact us in the present day and how our choices determine whether we will enjoy a different and, hopefully, better outcome than did those who went before us. It is a story about betrayals, redemption, forgiveness, and second chances. 

For Joe, it is the telling of his journey to discover whether he is truly the "good guy" that everyone believes him to be. Self-doubt and feelings of not belonging have plagued Joe his entire life, in part because of his mother's circumstances, but also because as a result of his father's absence from his life. At the beginning of the story, his professional success is tenuous. He has long been waiting for "the world to someday figure out that I didn't belong here, that I had risen far above my ditch-digging station, so I shouldn't have been surprised when it all started falling apart." But in Eskens' skillful and empathetic hands, Joe grows into a man who has stared down and conquered the demons that have accompanied him his whole life. He has had an opportunity to "be a decent man" and made choices that dictate whether or not, in his own estimation, he is truly "a good man." Learning the truth along with Joe is a moving, entertaining, and satisfying experience that might cause Eskens' readers to ask themselves many of the same questions that Joe does.

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
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The stunning new novel from the bestselling author of The Life We Bury.

A young reporter must come to terms with his past - and present - while investigating the murder of a man he believes could be his father.

Joe Talbert, Jr. has never once met his namesake. Now out of college, a cub reporter for the Associated Press in Minneapolis, he stumbles across a story describing the murder of a man named Joseph Talbert in a small town in southern Minnesota. 

Full of curiosity about whether this man might be his father, Joe is shocked to find that none of the town's residents have much to say about the dead man - other than that his death was long overdue. Joe discovers that the dead man was a loathsome lowlife who cheated his neighbors, threatened his daughter, and squandered his wife's inheritance after she, too, passed away - an inheritance that may now be Joe's. 

Mired in uncertainty and plagued by his own devastated relationship with his mother, who is seeking get back into her son's life, Joe must put together the missing pieces of his family history - before his quest for discovery threatens to put him in a grave of his own.
My take....

The Shadows We Hide reintroduces three of the characters encountered in Eskens' The Life We Bury - journalist Joe Talbert, his autistic brother Jeremy and Joe's girlfriend Lila.

An issue at work allows Joe Jr. the opportunity to investigate the death of a man with the same name as him. Joe tries to determine whether or not he was his father and if the 14 year old teenager found unconscious at the scene and now in a coma is his half-sister. It also gives him a bit of breathing space from the tensions in his relationship with Lila, after discovering that she has been in touch with his estranged mother. Joe last spoke to his alcohol and drugs addicted mother when he got her locked up at a guardianship hearing for his brother, a few years back.

Small town setting and the murder of an unpopular man, DNA tests, a teenage suspect on the loose, a devious uncle on the sniff for an inheritance, $3 million but might be 6, involvement in the investigation, good cop - bad cop, a hospital visit, a local lawyer, family history, Talbert Snr's dead wife and the rich dead father-in-law, a bar confidante, extra-marital nookie, a brawl or two, a missing brother, arson, a letter from home, an unwise kiss, more girlfriend friction, addiction and recovery, forgiveness and reconciliation, patrol car footage, a bit of head scratching and lo and behold a killer caught.

I have enjoyed reading this author's books in the past and this one was no exception. We have an interesting story with a kind of two-fold investigation - present day events and the murder of Joe's biological father - as he disappeared before Joe was born and even attempted to prevent his birth, you can't really regard him as a father in the true sense of the word - and as an off-shoot he learns more about his past and his mother and the events that helped shape her life and by definition the impact they had on him and his brother.

There's a few twists along the way, but nothing outlandish that has you shaking your head. Suspect A can't have done it, it looks like Suspect B. Hang on a minute B couldn't have because of X. Whoa it's C! All coherent, logical and perhaps if you've read the author before.... expected.

Enjoyable and a quick read. Eskens does get you turning the pages and invested in the outcome.

4 from 5

The Life We Bury and The Heavens May Fall have been enjoyed before. I think his other two novels - The Guise of Another and The Deep Dark Descending languish on the TBR pile somewhere.

Read in January, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 292
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Mulholland Books
Format - ePub read on laptop
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Joe Talbert is going to investigate the murder of the father he never knew.  He will uncover not only who his father was but who he is.
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I was so excited when I heard that Allen Eskens had a new book coming out. Even more so when I discovered that Joe Talbert would be returning in The Shadows We Hide.

Joe was the protagonist in Eskens' first book, The Life We Bury. I thought there was more to Joe's story. Joe has never known his father. When he comes across a news story about the death of a man named Joe Talbert, he wonders - could it possibly be the father he was named for? He heads to the small town  as the reporter he is  - and is stunned by the town's animosity towards the dead man.

Esken's characters have depth and significant back stories. Joe's mother is a drug addict, his brother is mentally challenged and Joe himself battles personal demons. I'm really fond of Lila, Joe's girlfriend. She's whip smart, kind, thoughtful and no pushover. She is true to her own beliefs and lives accordingly. All of these relationships resonate with reality.

Now in addition to absolutely fantastic characters is the mystery behind the dead Joe Talbert. And again, Eskens excels. His plotting is intricate and detailed and drew me into the underbelly of the small town. I wasn't able to predict the outcome of the book, which I really appreciate. And the ending was just right. 

Eskens is easily one of my favorite authors. I'll be eagerly awaiting the fifth book from this talented writer. Absolutely recommended. But do yourself a favor and start with the first book.

(The cover of The Shadows We Hide features the same barn that was on the cover in The Life We Bury, but in a growing season, instead of the winter.)
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The second book in a series (first book - The Life We Bury) with our main character Joe Talbert. This can be read as a stand-alone (with enough back-story to the characters that you need), but I highly recommend that you read the first book, which is Mr. Eskens debut novel. It’s so good you’ll be happy you did. Read them in succession if you can. I felt like I forgot a lot from reading it in 2015, so I think I’ll go back and read it again.

First off I loved this book, and the author’s writing is so good! He leads you through a story so well you feel like you know the characters personally. Eskens is a master storyteller. His writing just flows and grows more interesting page after page. This book held my interest the entire time, so by three-quarters through the book I couldn’t put it down. Every time you think you know who the murderer is, there's another layer added, so you’re not sure who it is until the final pages. Now that’s a good mystery for me. Yeah, there are some characters you really dislike (aka hate), but that’s what makes it a good story.

I also love that the story is set around southern Minnesota. I live in this area and love it, so I can really relate to the landscape/setting.

Another great book by one of my favorite authors Allen Eskens. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery/suspense book.

*A very special thank you to the author Allen Eskens/Mulholland Books via NetGalley for granting me my wish for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review*
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THE SHADOWS WE HIDE (Myst-Joe Talbert Jr.-Minnesota-Contemp) – VG+
	Eskins, Allen – 2nd in series
	Mulholland Books – Nov 2018

First Sentence:  I'm lying on the hood of my car, my back reclined against my windshield, knees bent, fingers laced together on my stomach, my breathing relaxed to ease the throb of pain.
Joe Talbert Jr., a cub reporter, wrote a story about a Senator which went to press without confirmation, with the result that he has been suspended and may be fired. However, he has come across the story about the murder of a Joseph Talbert in southern Minnesota.  Could this be the father he never met?  Rather than someone to be admired, the dead man's death isn't mourned, but was felt to be long overdue.  Responsible for his brother, contacted by his addict mother who claims to be recovering, with the encouragement of his girlfriend Lila, Joe is determined to learn about his family.  Someone is out to stop him.
A good, evocative opening is something to be savored, and this truly succeeds.  It engages both the senses and the emotions, as well as informs.  For those who read Elkins' previous book, "The Live We Bury," it is a true pleasure to have Joe, Lila, and Jeremy back again.  For those who haven't read it, Eskins provides all the background one needs, and more, to feel comfortable starting here.
Eskins effectively conveys Joe's feelings about finding information on the family he never knew.  One surprise after another keeps things interesting.  Joe's family, start to end, has issues that are monumental.  And just because someone is a relative doesn't mean they're a good person or can be trusted.  
Each of the main plot threads; the Senator and his wife, and Joe's family, holds one's interest.  There are so many facets to the story.  Eskins skillfully makes elements of it very personal and emotional, while painful to read even if one hasn't experienced such things for oneself.  Joe's relationship to his autistic brother, Jeremy, is beautifully done with a portrayal of Jeremey which is neither condescending nor contrived.  
The structure of the book is interesting in that Part I is the first 261 pages of the 339 pages total.  There are a couple unfortunate and unnecessary portents.  
"The Shadows We Hide" is a story of secrets, lies and addictions; of the harm people can do to themselves and one another.  But in the end, it is a story of redemption and is very well done.
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I LOVE all of Allen's books - but this book is my favorite!!  I love how he writes book not in series, but always having characters fluid enough to show up in his other books.  He is simply a genius and I look forward to his next books!!
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Joe Tolbert stole my heart !  If you ever feel like you are having a run of bad luck, just think of Joe Talbert’s run away roller coaster ride through losing his job, his father, his girl friend, his unbelievable inheritance, his half-sister, his car, his healthy body and then regain and lose some again.  His curiosity and intelligence led him to solve many of the pitfalls he faced - in my mind he would make a very successful FBI agent!  There were so many twists and turns and head on crashes with figuring out what was going to happen to Joe next.  He took the high road, despite much temptation, and saw perceived allies become opponents.  Loved meeting Lila, Jeremy, and so many others.  The ending was very satisfying- and redeeming for Joe!
I could not put this read down - and am now eager to read the prequel, The Life We Bury.  Many thanks to Allen Eskens, Mulholland Books, and NetGalley for affording me to read this enthralling read!
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I am a great fan of Allen Eskens' work and have read every one of his books.  This one was another exciting, well written, and intriguing novel which I had great difficulty putting down when real life called.   It was a very satisfying sequel to The Life We Bury and even if you have not read the first book you will still thoroughly enjoy this story line with its twists and turns.  Joe Talbert Jr., a reporter for the Associated Press, learns of the death of his father through a press release and his curiosity drives him to look into the death further.  Joe's father, "Toke", was not a kind or pleasant man and there were a number of people who were not at all disturbed by his passing.  Joe only knows what his mother has told him, as his father deserted her when she was pregnant.  Murder, suicide, theft, drug overdose and the settling of a large estate all play their part in making this a very highly recommendable read.
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The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins received tons and tons of stellar reviews!  The Shadows We Hide, a sequel to The Life We Bury, was published this month and is getting rave reviews too.


In the highly-anticipated sequel to the national bestseller The Life We Bury, Joe Talbert returns to investigate the murder of the father he never knew, and to reckon with his own family’s past.

Joe Talbert, Jr. has never once met his namesake. Now out of college, a cub reporter for the Associated Press in Minneapolis, he stumbles across a story describing the murder of a man named Joseph Talbert in a small town in southern Minnesota.

Full of curiosity about whether this man might be his father, Joe is shocked to find that none of the town’s residents have much to say about the dead man-other than that his death was long overdue. Joe discovers that the dead man was a loathsome lowlife who cheated his neighbors, threatened his daughter, and squandered his wife’s inheritance after she, too, passed away–an inheritance that may now be Joe’s.

Mired in uncertainty and plagued by his own devastating relationship with his mother, who is seeking to get back into her son’s life, Joe must put together the missing pieces of his family history– before his quest for discovery threatens to put him in a grave of his own.


I was about to sit down with a blanket, my dogs, and this book when I realized I should probably read The Life We Bury first.  I think this is a case where both books should be read in order so the reader has the necessary background information to connect with the characters.

Have you read either of these? I’m so excited to dig in!
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I largely enjoyed Eskens' first book, and was interested in following the characters into a new story. I can't say this worked for me entirely. The sense of the town of Buckley, a small southern Minnesota town, felt realistic, but the protagonist had a few too many personal problems - conflict with his terrible mother with whom he doesn't want to reconcile, conflict with his beloved who is nervously studying for the bar, conflict with random jerks at the local bar, conflict at work because a story he wrote led to a lawsuit, and conflict because the man whose murder he is investigating while on leave from his job apparently is the father he never knew and he was a horrible man who deserved killing - and might have unknowingly left his son millions of dollars worth of prime farmland, depending on how the fraught relationships unravel. Etc. I didn't really like the main character in this book, and a couple of picky things made it hard to suspend disbelief - a local sheriff who has a county and a jail to look after investigating a murder when it's far more likely the state BCA would be handling a homicide, and I couldn't honestly imagine the AP running a politically-sensitive story that blew up a politician's career without being able to confirm what a single unnamed source told a reporter. The plot was a decent puzzle, and some of the characters were well drawn; I just didn't warm to the main character and his life seemed a little too wall-to-wall drama for my tastes.
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The lives people lead
The lives people have
The secrets people bury
The shadows people hide
He was a child born out of wedlock, without knowledge of his father, with a shadow of illegitimacy and inferiority cast over him, a dead father and alive stepsister comes to his knowledge and a search for murderer and truth behind lives and a father he wants to know more about, with some money possible to inherit, and the whole dysfunctionality of the family uncovered in this narrative.
He has a brother with autism to take care of, one he won legal care of from his mother.
A mother he would rather never talk to again is injected into the unraveling events with the unspoken, he needs to tread carefully with a terrible parent, and confrontation with bad things from the past of his family, ones whom have troubles with alcoholism and drug addiction.
The first person narrative reels you in with a empathically told self discovery of a good man amongst many bad men and women, forgiveness and setting aright bad things of past with truths revealed, all hooking reader on with a great read, there are tragedies within, death, love, family, and trust all in the weight of things strung out with smooth lucid prose.
A must-read book reminiscent of Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell’s storytelling themes.
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The sequel to this authors novel, The life we bury, which I absolutely loved. Joe Talbert is now a reporter, and a very ethical one at that. When a story he wrote, revealing the wrong doings of a senator, goes public,  he finds his job in jeopardy. He still refuses to give up his source, keeping his promise not to do so. Now he finds himself embroiled in a mystery concerning the death of the father he never knew.

Joe is the kind of man one would want their daughter to marry. He is caring, dependable, a man who though still young himself took on the care of his twenty year old autistic brother. He finds out many things during his search, about his father certainly, but more importantly about himself. Watching Joe change and grow during the course of the story was my favorite part. He is confronted with s moral choice, makes a bad decision that could cost him everything he holds dear, and learns that second chances may indeed be possible. 

Characterization is the strong suit here, and it is done extremely well. This book read quickly, the pages flying by, as we follow Joe down the paths of his own life. A sisters read that we all enjoyed, and a good discussion as well. 

ARC from Netgalley.
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Allen Eskens was recently a guest on my radio show where we discussed The Shadows We Hide in detail.  it is the follow up story to The Life We Bury and finds Joe Talbert back and investigating the death of a man whose name is the same as his.

While this is Joe's story too, this is really his mother's story to tell and it is so well written that I read in one sitting.

Allen Eskens is a gift to readers and I highly recommend this book!
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A sequel to his highly acclaimed novel THE LIFE WE BURY. Eskens returns to Joe Tolbert’s life as a journalist for AP when an exposé forces him to take a leave of absence, he finds himself curious about the death of his estranged father who has been kill with suspicion of foul play. Joe quickly finds out he’s not the only one who thinks little of his father and finds himself, once again, wading deep in an investigation that jeopardizes his life. The story was eloquently written and had an intricate plot that will leave you guessing.
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Once again Allen Eskens takes us into Joe Talbot's world, a world of secrets, a world of murder, and a world of forgiveness.

For those of us who met Joe, his autistic brother Jeremy, his girlfriend, Lila, and a mother, Kathy, (the mother from hell), in The Life We Bury, you might be delighted to see their return.

In this installment, Joe tackles the death of his supposed father who was murdered. Joe, now a reporter, takes on his despicable uncle, the police, and a barmaid, Vicki, who seems to fancy Joe. Finding secrets that he never expected, his life is about to take quite a turn as he tries to solve the murder of his father and in the process comes to the realization that his father was just as loathsome as he suspected, and his uncle is probably worse!

Mr Eskens presents us with an easy to read story, one where the characters are fessed out so well, and we come to know them as the two sides of a human coin. There are a lot of things Joe needs to settle in his life. but he seems up to the task using cunning and a wonderful moral sense in his dealings with all. He is the type of character you would like to be friends with. Life does offer twists and turns and Joe and his family tackle them with aplomb and surety.

As with the former book about Joe Talbot, I recommend this new book highly. You can never go wrong with a well written story that carries you along life's road and makes you happy you traveled it with a favorite character.

Thank you to Allen Eskens, Mulholland Books and NetGalley for a copy of this worthwhile story.
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Meet Joe Talbert – Junior. Joe discovers there really is a Joe Talbert Senior; that his father is more than just a myth that his addict mother had invented. Joe will never have the chance to meet him, for two reasons: (1) He swore he would never try to find his father, and (2) It’s too late anyway, because he is dead.

Six years ago, Joe was in college and so was his girlfriend Lila Nash. They now have legal guardianship of Joe’s autistic brother Jeremy, Lila is in law school and about to write her bar exam, and Jeremy is writing for a well-known news media outlet. And it’s all about to come crashing down around Joe’s ears. Everything – his whole life – is on a course heading straight to destruction.

This fast-paced and breathtakingly complex story involves a lawsuit, arson, relatives who may or may not be relatives, millions of dollars, murders, some very bad people (including a highly placed elected official), and some truly good people who do some truly stupid things in the heat of a moment.

That is just one of the many things I love about this author’s work. He is able to swiftly and accurately paint his characters so well, and in such depth that their authenticity shines through. Some of the bad people have few, if any redeeming qualities and most of the good people have flaws and traumas that they work hard on as life does its work on them.

As in the first novel, The Life We Bury, the pace of this novel is fast, and there are times when it gallops along at racing speed before slowing back down to a lope. The plot is intricate and there were times when my imagination was triggered into possibilities for certain scenarios. A quick zig-zag with more momentum going around the corners, and suddenly we are headed in another direction. Oh, it made perfect sense and my reveries caught on to a new track . . . except we didn’t end there, either. And I loved every moment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the complex plots and sub-plots, and the characters. There was one part where I was crying so hard that I had to put my eReader aside and fetch tissues – I couldn’t even see to read any more. And as soon as I could, I was back in the story again.

I envy those who have yet to read this fabulous sequel to The Life We Bury. Even more, though, I envy those who may not have read The Life We Bury either and will be fortunate enough to read these 2 books one after the other. Either way, I highly recommend this book and look forward to many more great reviews of this impressive novel.

**Many thanks to the Mulholland Team who offered me a complimentary copy to read. Also, thank you to NetGalley as the vehicle to ensure I could read this in a format for my eReader. Finally, thank you to Allen Eskens for sharing your writing skills and opening new vistas via your extraordinary books.**
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This book is a sequel to The Life We Bury, and follows Joe Talbert on his journey to uncover the father he never knew. After his boss, Allison, shows him the death notice of someone named "Joe Talbert" in the newspaper, Joe decides to go to the small town in Minnesota. His journey is mostly built on curiosity of understanding this man who he believes was his father in a biological sense, but he never knew. However, what Joe discovers is that Joe Sr. was not a nice man and that there are quite a few people who may have had a motive for murdering him. 

The author does a great job of helping us understand Joe and the relationships he has with his girlfriend Lila, his brother Jeremy, and his mother he has been estranged from for a few years. These difficult relationships are what lead Joe to make difficult decisions. Although somewhat of a slow burn, there are a lot of good twists in the book that keep it interesting. I enjoy Eskens writing style and portrayal of the broken characters.
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This sequel to The Life We Buried deals with Joe Tolbert, now a reporter facing a libel lawsuit, who all of a sudden is dealing with all sorts of “family issues”.  His never known father is the victim of a homicide, his meth head mother is trying to get back into his life and he possibly has a half sister.  He’s facing a lot of issues, but can I say I didn’t initially find him a sympathetic character?   He takes advantage of his girlfriend and seems to be ignoring his autistic brother.  

But the writing is great.  Here’s a glimpse “it was as if she wore her demons on her skin, the crazy no longer content to swing on vines in her head.”   And the author does a good job of developing Joe and I liked that he wasn’t some heroic figure, just someone curious about the father he never knew.  

This isn’t a fast paced book, but it does move at a nice consistent pace. I had no clue how it was going to play out in the end.  Some of the supporting characters seem more stereotypical than I would have liked.  But in the end, I really enjoyed the story, especially the ending.  I will continue to seek out anything Eskens writes.  And while I had read TLWB, I don’t feel it’s at all necessary.  This works fine as a stand alone.  

My thanks to netgalley and Mulholland Books for an advance copy of this book.
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Love, love, love!  In the Shadows We Hide I got to continue to follow the lives of Joe and Lila. I loved the in The Life We Bury  and this book felt like visiting family. Although Lila doesn’t have as big of a storyline this time, Joe has enough activity to keep my mind thinking and heart racing. Between being sued for slander and trying to find the killer of his estranged father Joe barely has time to sleep. Great twists with every chapter. I am hoping for another sequel that follows Lila!
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