Sometimes telling a story is all about retelling—tracing the thread of a long-ago series of events and finally getting it right. Minnesota student Joe Talbert discovers this when he is tasked with writing a senior citizen’s biography for a college English class. Short on options and time, Joe heads to Hillview Manor nursing home in search of potential subjects. There he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam vet who’s out on parole after serving a 30-year sentence for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Crystal Hagen. Joe dreads writing his story: “I had come to Hillview looking for a hero, and instead, found a villain.”
But the man whom his research reveals is far from a one-dimensional bad guy. Joe meets Carl’s army buddy, Virgil, who witnessed Carl’s acts of heroism and insists that his friend is no killer. Then Joe spots a telling detail from an old crime scene photo—one that was overlooked at the trial. He begins to suspect there’s much more to the story than the secretive old man is telling him. But if Carl didn’t murder Crystal, why did he never proclaim his innocence? What really happened to him in Vietnam? And is the real killer still walking free?
Joe turns amateur sleuth, aided by his attractive but standoffish neighbor, Lila. Then his mother is jailed for DUI, leaving him to care for his autistic brother. As his search for clues becomes more dangerous, he begins to wonder if he’ll have to choose between college and the claims of family. Allan Eskens’ compulsively suspenseful first novel reveals that guilt takes many forms—and that getting the story right is essential.