College student Joe Talbert needs to interview a stranger in order to complete a paper for an English class. Joe heads to the local nursing home, and there, he meets Carl Iverson, a Vietnam vet and convicted killer, now come to die outside of the prison walls. Carl, convicted of the rape and murder of a young girl thirty years ago, is a daunting subject for Joe, but intriguing. And Joe, sincere and young and respectful, seems to be just the person to draw Carl’s story from the taciturn man. Carl’s story is compelling, and Joe begins to wonder if Carl is as guilty of murder as everyone seems to believe. And as Joe investigates, we begin to see that Joe may carry his own burden of guilt over a difficult episode from his past.
This is an excellent mystery, written in a compelling, readable style. Joe is likable and it is clear that he genuinely cares about Carl as he tries to find the truth in his story. Both characters, Joe and Carl, share burdens of guilt that bind them together. The pacing of the story is good, and I found myself reading late into the night to finish. As Carl’s life draws to a close, we see Joe rise through his difficulties to become something more. A wonderful debut.