Starvation Lake (Starvation Lake Series #1)

( 91 )

Overview

Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, Harlan Coben meets early Dennis Lehane in this “smashing debut thriller” (Chicago Tribune), set in a small northern Michigan town by a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.

In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake—the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation’s legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened ...

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Overview

Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, Harlan Coben meets early Dennis Lehane in this “smashing debut thriller” (Chicago Tribune), set in a small northern Michigan town by a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.

In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake—the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation’s legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened five miles away on a different lake. As rumors buzz about mysterious underground tunnels, the evidence from the snowmobile says one thing: murder.

Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, has recently returned to Starvation after a failed attempt to make it big at the Detroit Times. In his youth, Gus was the goalie who let a state championship get away, crushing Coach's dreams and earning the town's enmity. Now he's investigating the murder of his former coach. But even more unsettling to Gus are the holes in the town’s past and the gnawing suspicion that those holes may conceal some dark and disturbing secrets—secrets that some of the people closest to him may have killed to keep.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] smashing debut thriller. Gruley...knows how to drag you kicking and screaming into a story so gripping that you'll probably devour it in one gulp." — Chicago Tribune

"An engrossing picture of small-town America and the passions that simmer beneath its complacent surface. Brian Gruley: Remember the name. You should be hearing it often in the future." — The San Diego Union Tribune

"Bryan Gruley delivers a seamless tale of revenge, redemption, secrets and lost hope." — Sun-Sentinel (South Florida)

"His characters are genuinely flawed and, Carpenter especially, honestly likable. Gruley's gripping plot unfolds like a piece of investigative journalism..." — Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Debuts don't come much more polished than this tale of corruption and redemption..." — The Cleveland Plain-Dealer

"Gruley deftly juggles several intricately related plots, and conveys the beauty and picturesque shabbiness of a northern Michigan town." — The Detroit News

"Gruley's outstanding debut effortlessly incorporates his inside knowledge...into a tale of violence and betrayal that will remind many of Dennis Lehane." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Many good crime novels appear every month, but few have the depth and poignancy of Starvation Lake, which deserves comparison with Dennis Lehane's Mystic River." — Booklist (starred review)

"A terrific first novel about what it means to be a journalist. Full of insider knowledge about hockey and great local color, this is not to be missed." — Library Journal (starred review)

"A great debut from a major talent." — New York Times bestselling author, Harlan Coben

Art Taylor
Gruley…depicts small-town life and its newspaper persuasively, and he knows hockey, too: Play by play, he captures the passion for the game and the drive to win, both in the flashback scenes and among the 30-year-olds still clinging to the rink…Some of the suspense seems artificial…but Gruley more than earns the Young Goodman Brown moment that Carpenter experiences near the novel's end
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Gruley's outstanding debut effortlessly incorporates his inside knowledge of both the newspaper business and his hockey avocation into a tale of violence and betrayal that will remind many of Dennis Lehane. After crossing an ethical line while writing an investigative series for the Detroit Times , reporter Gus Carpenter has returned to his hometown of Starvation Lake, Mich., to work for the local paper, whose stories mostly reflect the pedestrian and placid nature of smalltown life. That changes when evidence surfaces that the town's legendary hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, who disappeared after an apparent snowmobile accident a decade earlier, was actually murdered. Carpenter's reopening of the case, which has personal resonance for him (he'd been the goalie for the amateur boys' team Blackburn coached), shakes all sorts of skeletons loose. Gruley, the Wall Street Journal 's Chicago bureau chief, has a gift for making all his characters, from the leads to the bit players, realistic. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Booklist
Many good crime novels appear every month, but few have the depth and poignancy of Starvation Lake, which deserves comparison with Dennis Lehane's Mystic River.
Library Journal

The discovery of pieces of a snowmobile owned by the late Jack Blackburn, the much revered hockey coach in Starvation Lake, MI, prompts a new look into what happened ten years earlier, when Blackburn perished in the frozen water. Gus Carpenter, recently returned from Detroit after a failed attempt at working for a bigger publication, edits the local newspaper. With a young journalist, he works on the Blackburn story and uncovers some secrets no one wants exposed. In confronting the ghosts from his past and the evils of the present, Carpenter finds his moral and ethical footing. Gruley, a Michigan native, an amateur hockey player, and the Chicago bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, has written a terrific first novel about what it means to be a journalist. Full of insider knowledge about hockey and great local color, this is not to be missed. Highly recommended for all collections.


—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
Ten years after it disappears beneath the icy waters of Starvation Lake, a beloved hockey coach's snowmobile is found in another lake. Jack Blackburn had it all. His players adored him, and his success in bringing them closer and closer to the Michigan championship put his adopted town on the map, brought a welcome influx of new investment capital and made him the first citizen of the hockey-mad hamlet. Now the snowmobile on which his assistant Leo Redpath watched him sink into Starvation Lake has turned up five miles away. Did it drift there through an underground tunnel, or is there a more sinister explanation? Gus Carpenter, the former goalie who blew the state championship game for Blackburn's finest team, would seem the logical person to investigate. But Gus's experience digging up juicy stories for the Detroit Times has come at a high price, and not even his secluded gig as associate editor of the Pine County Pilot can prevent his scandalous past from resurfacing. Gus's struggle with this new mystery is complicated by his old rival Teddy Boynton's attempt to put Soupy Campbell, Gus's best friend, out of business, and by his painful discovery that all the people he's been closest to, from his mother to his old girlfriend to his society columnist, have been hoarding secrets that have made them strangers to him. Gruley's debut is generously plotted and rewardingly solid on character and atmosphere, though most readers will be ahead of Gus every step of the way.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416563624
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 3/3/2009
  • Series: Starvation Lake Series , #1
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 156,351
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Bryan Gruley

Bryan Gruley is reporter at large for Bloomberg News and the former Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal. He has won the Anthony, Barry, and Strand Awards and was nominated for an Edgar Award for best first novel. He lives with his wife in Chicago. Visit BryanGruley.com.

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Read an Excerpt

prologue

The cast-iron railing wobbled in his hand as he climbed the porch steps. He nearly fell over. After three tries, he decided the doorbell didn't work. The screen door wouldn't give, so he stripped off a glove and rapped on the aluminum frame. Paint the color of pea soup was peeling off the face of the inside door.

A cold drop of rain leaked through the awning over his head and splatted on the back of his neck. He put a hand to his neck and looked up as another drop splashed on his cheek. "Shit," he said, taking a step back and pulling his camouflage jacket tight around the package tucked within.

He looked down the street. Not a person in sight. Two Fords, a Chrysler, and his Chevy pickup truck waited at the curb. A single porch light flickered wanly in the dusk. Two doors down, charring from a fire blackened one side of the house, and wind ruffled the drapes where a windowpane had once been. He looked down. Brown stains pocked the concrete porch, down the three steps, and along the walk to the street. The stains seemed to grow bigger as they neared the curb. He hoped they weren't blood.

He rapped again. Dammit, he thought, I knew I should have just sent it the usual way. Four hours down to this shithole city and now I gotta wait around? How the hell does the guy work in this dump? There's a darkroom in there? He looked at his watch. If he could get this done in the next hour he would still have time to visit one of the Windsor clubs before heading home.

He heard something moving inside, then footsteps on the other side of the door. He swallowed hard and took another step back. Just a delivery, he thought. Just leave the thing and go.

The door eased open a crack. He smelled cabbage and cigarettes. A woman's pale round face appeared above the hand holding the door. She seemed to be wearing nothing but a flannel shirt that drooped to her knees.

"What?" she said.

"Riddle. Got something for Charley."

He slipped the manila envelope out from under his coat.

"Riddle? You a joker?"

She had an accent he didn't recognize. Jesus Christ, he thought, is she going to understand a word I say?

"It's my name. Is Charley here?"

The envelope was wrapped in tape and rubber bands. She looked at it with contempt.

"No Charley. We don't want no delivery."

"This is the address he gave me." He glanced at the address plate nailed to the brick. "Cecil Avenue, right?"

A man's voice called out from inside. "Magda!"

She yelled at him in her language. He barked something else, sounding closer now, and she stormed away, leaving the inside door ajar.

The man swung the door open wide. He stood barefoot in a pair of paint-stained sweatpants and a gray T-shirt that said Property of Detroit Lions. A single brow overhung his dark, sunken eyes. He held the door with one hand and kept the other behind his back.

"What you want?"

"I was supposed to bring this for Charley."

"Charley?" The man almost smiled, then decided against it. "Jarek."

"Jarek?" Riddle chuckled nervously. "Jarek, Charley. Got it. Can I leave this for him?"

The man shifted his weight from his left foot to his right, keeping his one hand hidden. Riddle tried not to look at it.

"You are from up north?" the man said.

"Yes, sir. About four hours."

The man stared at Riddle for a moment. "Why do you wear army jacket?" he said. "Are you in military?"

Riddle glanced self-consciously at his camouflage jacket. "Oh, no sir. This is for hunting. Deer, rabbits, you know. "

"Aha. You are a killer then. Did you bring gun?"

"My gun? Oh, no sir. That's locked up at home, yes sir."

The man tilted his head slightly. "Would you like to come in?"

"Thank you, but no, I really have to be going. Got a long haul back. Got other deliveries to make, you know. Sorry."

"Other deliveries?" The man leaned forward. "What other deliveries?"

Riddle glanced down the street again. Still not a soul. The last light of afternoon was nearly gone. "Nothing," he said. "I just have to get back."

"Jarek is not here."

"No?"

"No. Not here anymore."

"I see. Well." Riddle tried on what he imagined to be a businesslike smile. "Do you know where I can find him?" He wished he hadn't asked the question the second it left his lips.

"Jarek will not be back. You can leave it with me."

The man pushed open the screen door with his hidden hand. The hand held an unlit cigarette. Riddle gave the man the envelope.

"OK, then," Riddle said. "You'll send it back to the usual place?"

The man slammed the door without another word. Copyright © 2009 by Bryan Gruley

one

You can never look into their eyes. Not once. Not for a second. Not if you're a goaltender, like me. Because the guy shooting the puck wants you to look there. Then he'll glance one way and shoot the other, or he'll draw your eyes up just as he snaps the puck between your legs. Or he'll lock on you just long enough to remind you that he knows exactly what he's about to do and you don't, that you're just wishing and hoping that you'll guess right. That you're not at all in control.

Then you're dead.

It was nearly midnight. I was tending the hockey goal at the south end of the John D. Blackburn Memorial Ice Arena. And I was yelling for help. Soupy backpedaled across the rink to give me some. It looked like he'd make it just in time to cut off the other team's winger when his skate blade caught a gash in the ice and he went flying. His helmet, an old three-piece Cooper held together by skate laces and friction tape, bounced off of his head and went skittering into the boards.

"Fuck me!" he shouted.

Boynton sidestepped Soupy and the helmet and veered to the center of the ice, heading my way, alone. He was tall and lean, dressed all in black, and he kept his head up as he crossed the blue line, looking for my eyes. I focused on the puck as he slid it back and forth, from the back of his stick to the front. My team was up, 2-1. Less than a minute remained in the game. My left hand, steamy inside my catching glove, whacked once against my belly, involuntarily, and shot out to my side, open and ready. My right arm pressed the bottom edge of my goalie stick against the sandpaper ice. I dropped my squat an inch, dug the inner toe of my right skate into the ice, and glided back six inches, a foot. I tucked my head into my neck. The thin slick of sweat beneath my mask stung my cheeks. I blinked, hard.

I didn't want to be there. In a drafty hockey rink reeking of refrigerant. Late. In a two-stoplight town clinging to the southeastern tip of a frozen lake in northern lower Michigan. I'd left the place years before, a failure, intending never to return. Now I was back, against my weak will, after failing miserably someplace else. By day, I was the associate editor of the Pine County Pilot, circulation 4,733, published every day but Sunday. By night I tended goal in the Midnight Hour Men's League, surrounded by men I'd known as boys. In between I waited for something to change my life, to get me out of Starvation Lake again. That's what goalies do. They wait.

When Boynton had closed to fifteen feet, I felt him drop his right shoulder as if to shoot. Just then, the puck bounced on something — a shaving of ice, a sliver of wood — and tottered on an edge. I glimpsed the chipped scarlet paint of a logo on the underside. I dropped to one knee and flung my stick forward, catching just enough of the wobbling puck to flop it back over Boynton's stick blade. It trickled behind him, and Soupy, bareheaded, swooped in and golfed it clear.

Boynton kept coming, though. I was trying to get to my feet when his stick cracked me under the left ear, below the edge of the mask. A shock of pain tore through my jawbone and rippled down my neck. Boynton's knee speared my chest and I toppled over backward, my head bouncing on the ice as he fell on me. The smells of snuff and hops and sweat and tape filled my nostrils. I could hear a whistle shrieking, again and again. I opened my eyes. Boynton's face was two inches away, a grin beneath dark eyes. "Lucky fuck," he spat before I blacked out.

My wait was over.

The needle punctured the skin along my jawbone and I dug my fingernails into the soft wood of Leo's workbench as he stitched me. I had tried to numb the left side of my face with a fistful of snow, but the pinpricks stung anyway. The cut took six stitches to close.

"Thanks, Leo," I said. The air in the big steel shed behind Blackburn Arena was sweet with gasoline. I sipped a beer in a circle of light spread by a bulb hanging from the high ceiling. Leo moved out of the light to toss his stitching needle into a wastebasket. It pinged on one of his empty 7-Up bottles.

"Try to be more careful," Leo said, emerging into the light again. "You boys aren't boys anymore."

For something like thirty years, Leo Redpath had maintained the rink's compressors and ice scrapers and Zamboni machine. He performed the odd carpentry and plumbing chores that kept the dressing rooms, snack bar, and restrooms in working order. Mostly he kept to himself, content to tinker in his shed and tend to the Zamboni he affectionately called Ethel. And although Leo was no doctor, his workbench sometimes doubled as an operating table for players who didn't want to bother with the local clinic. Leo had been doing it so long that he barely left scars anymore.

"See the game tonight?" I said.

"I never watch," Leo said.

I smiled at his lie. The stitches tugged at my chin. I could make out his wide, hunched-over shape shuffling around in the shadows surrounding Ethel. "You don't see hockey like that too often in Starvation Lake."

"I'm sure no truer words were ever spoken," he said.

"It's that deceptive speed, eh, Trap?" The voice came from the other end of the shed. Soupy walked in with a beer in one hand and two more dangling from a plastic six-pack holder. "We're even slower than we look."

It was one of his favorite lines, and he laughed at it, by himself.

Leo stepped out from behind Ethel. "Well, if it isn't Sonja Henie," he said. "Was that a triple salchow that landed you on your derriere?"

"Derriere?" Soupy said. "Derri-fucking-aire? Haven't we told you like eight million times to speak English around here? I think the word you're looking for is 'ass,' my friend. And who the hell is Sonja Henie?"

"Leo didn't watch," I said. Talking hurt.

"True," Leo said. "But I did catch a glimpse while carrying a box of Junior Mints to the snack bar."

I jumped down from the workbench. My teeth rattled when I landed. "Well, then, maybe you noticed whether Soupy punched Boynton's ticket on his way past?"

"Blow me, Trap," Soupy said. He stood a head taller than me, long and lanky in a blue denim overcoat with the words "Starvation Lake Marina" encircling an anchor embroidered over the left breast. Thick blond curls furled out from under his red woolen cap. "Gave you a chance to shine. You ought to thank me."

"I would have but I was unconscious."

I finished my beer, tossed the can at the wastebasket, missed, and motioned for one of Soupy's beers. Leo picked up the empty.

"Ultimate Teddy Boynton assault and battery," Soupy said. "You poke-check him, he runs you over." While I was out cold, as Soupy explained, Boynton threatened to punch a referee, who threw him out of the game. "The bastard probably didn't mean to knock you out. Or who knows, maybe he did." Soupy took a long pull on his beer. "He probably didn't like your editorial."

I had no idea Soupy read editorials. "Probably not." I looked around the shed. Leo had disappeared behind Ethel again. "We have a meeting tomorrow."

"With Teddy boy?" Soupy asked.

"And his lawyer."

"His asshole lawyer, Trap."

"Of course."

Soupy touched his beer to the side of his head. "Try to keep your head up this time, huh?"

"Quiet, please." Leo was trying to listen to the police scanner. It sat on a stack of milk crates, keeping him company on slow nights. We heard some crackling and some beeps, then the voice of the dispatcher, Darlene Esper. She was talking with a deputy on his way to Walleye Lake. A snowmobile had washed up onshore.

"Christ," I said. It was probably nothing. But every local over the age of fifty had a police scanner next to the bed, on the garage workbench, or on the shelf over the washing machine, and they'd all be talking about that snowmobile on Walleye Lake at Audrey's Diner the next morning. I grabbed Leo's rotary phone and dialed the sheriff 's department. One of the perks of being associate editor of the Pilot was knowing that number by heart. Darlene answered.

"Deputy Esper," I said. "Gus Carpenter." I hoped for a chuckle. Darlene and I had grown up next door to each other. Our mothers had finally given up trying to marry us. So had Darlene.

"Gussy," she said. "You hear about the sled?"

"Yeah."

"You better get out there. Sheriff's out there."

"Dingus? Why, is there an all-you-can-eat buffet?"

"Just go, Gus."

I lingered on the phone — her voice always got me that way — but she'd already hung up. I zipped up my parka, fished out my truck keys. "Leo, thanks for the embroidery," I said. He didn't answer.

"Can't keep away from her, can you?" Soupy said.

"Good skate, Soup," was all I said.

As I stepped into the night, I heard him call out: "Mrs. Darlene Esper — sweetest ta-tas in Starvation Lake." Copyright © 2009 by Bryan Gruley

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 91 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(40)

4 Star

(25)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 91 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    "Starvation Lake" is an excellent and unusual first novel!

    I heard an interview with this Writer, Bryan Gruley, on WGN radio in Chicago. After the interview, I had to buy the book. It sounded really interesting. After I read the book, I was glad I did. I usually can't remember titles if I don't write them down, but this title was very memorable: "Starvation Lake". It is a great mystery set in resort town in Michigan. What is it about? Hockey and Murder. If you're not a hockey fan you might not understand the difference, but this is a book filled with great characters who live in a small town on a lake in Michigan. The main character is a disgraced reporter who almost made it big by breaking a big story and winning a Pulitzer . . . but instead he returns home to Starvation Lake to run the local newspaper. It is a typical small town newspaper and his staff consists three people. The town is dying because he made a mistake as a teenager, and the stuggle to save the town is filled with dirty small town deals behind closed doors between men who never let their highschool problems die.

    So where does hockey come into this story? As a teenager, the reporter was the goalie for the town's high school hockey team. Starvation Lake was put on the map by a legendary coach and a small band of players who captured the attention of the entire state of Michigan by making it into the state championship hockey game only to lose it in overtime on a bad play by the reporter/goalie. The entire town never forgave him, and after the loss the town went into a state of decline. No one is surprised that he lost his big city reporter job and had to come home with his tail between his legs. All the men in the town play in a hockey league, and their off ice struggles to save the town frequently boil over into violence in the hockey rink.

    The author makes you care about these unlikely likeable characters. This book is funny and insightful, and the mystery is first class. You don't have to like hoceky to like this book. It paints a very vivid picture of working class people from Michigan who love the outdoors and the natural beauty of their state. Their values are very blue collar and honest. Their stuggles to make ends meet are real especially in this economy. Their crimes also fit the times, and the mystery is very complex. The author reveals the answers to clues in unexpected ways. He stayed a step ahead of me right to the very end.

    This book might not appeal to everyone because it is blue collar and hockey is not for everyone. But try reading a few pages of it and see if it catches your interest. The characters are very likeable and the mystery is a good one. I passed it on to my wife, and she is still reading. When I asked here what she thought, she said the mystery has her hooked. I truly hope this author writes another novel soon because this was a fun read and an amazing first novel. I especially liked all the characters, and I hope I can visit them in Starvation Lake again in another book by Bryan Gruley.

    10 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Terrific!

    Starvation Lake mixes a mystery with a rural Michigan setting and lots of hockey. Gus Carpenter, editor of 'The Pilot', the Starvation Lake, Minnesota local paper, was a small town boy who had made good. Gus had been the goalie of the local hockey team then gone off to college where he majored in journalism and then on to Detroit where he set his sights on Pulitzer Prize. His story, though, instead of making his career, all but ended it, forcing him to return to Starvation Lake in somewhat disgrace. Gus found that the last ten years had not been any kinder to Starvation Lake than to him. This is a terrific novel! I highly recommended!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

    MY VOTE FOR 2009 BEST NEW MYSTERY AUTHOR

    In STARVATION LAKE, Bryan Gruley has won the Best First Mystery Novel of the Year in my estimation. The atmosphere of Michigan small town winters, and the emphasis on hockey for all of the townspeople was expertly described. Trials and failures of writing truthful, non-libelous newspaper stories were intriguing and drove the mystery expertly. BUT most importantly, in Gus Carpenter, we have an intense, imaginative, well developed new mystery lead character whose story reads like true confessions from an old friend. The mystery of what happened with a called accident, now called murder, captures the excitement of everyone in Starvation Lake. Once boys and families just wanted to "win" the hockey championship, but with the mystery of what happened to "coach", the whole town begins to realize that they really do not know anything for sure anymore. What was really happening one season years ago has changed the town forever. Gruley has taken the thrill of a group of hockey players fighting to make a goal, and won himself a score for a great new mystery series.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    fun investigative thriller

    In Starvation Lake, Michigan everyone is shook up when pieces of a snowmobile wash ashore at Lake Walleye. Sheriff Dingus Aho puts a close hold on the investigation, but rumors spread that the snowmobile is the one driven by legendary peewee ice hockey coach Jack Blackburn who died ten years while riding one at Starvation Lake. <BR/><BR/>Thirty-four years old Gus Carpenter, the editor of the local paper Pilot, and his ace reporter Joanne McCarthy makes inquires into the current case, which leads back to what happened to the coach in 1998. Their investigation leads to a decade earlier when Gus as a goalie let in the winning shot in the State Championship and back to the 1970sd when Coach worked with kids in Canada. However, Gus has legal issues involving an unidentified source back when he worked in Detroit that has him somewhat distracted as he knows the family oriented Pilot may be his last stop on the way back down the same ladder he had climbed up.<BR/><BR/>Although there are too many references to the lost hockey game that allegedly destroyed the town especially by an odious participant turned builder who belongs in the penalty box, fans of sports mysteries will enjoy this fun investigative thriller. The story line is driven by the townsfolk as everyone seems to have secrets even the hero¿s widow mom. Gus is a terrific lead character who holds his anger in check as no one will let him forget the goal that changed Lake Salvation. Joanne reminds him of himself when he was on the way up until he learned at the Detroit Times how in bed the media and the corporations are. Bryan Gruley provides a winning goal that places the small-town hockey atmosphere of Mystery, Alaska inside a Michigan mystery.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great story

    Did you ever start reading a book and didn't want to put it down, even if it made you late for work? "Starvation Lake" by Bryan Gruley did that to me. I didn't know what to expect when I began reading it, but once I started and got involved in the life of Gus and the small town newspaper the Pilot, I was taken in. He creates characters with such intensity that you get to know them inside and out. The flashbacks to Gus' adolescent hockey games made me care for him more. As the story develops, I couldn't help wonder where it where and what it was leading to. Mr. Gruley certainly knows how to write great mysteries.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Great Book! Couldn't put it down

    Author uses brilliant imagery in developing his characters and setting his scenes. All five senses are put into play as he pulls his readers into the story. I felt as though I had been Gus' childhood friend and teammate. The story sucked me in. I couldn't put it down until the middle of the night when my eyes were burning and could no longer function. Great read! Question. is Audrey's egg pie real? Gruley's description has my mouth watering for one!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2012

    Highly recommended

    I recently retired and am searching for authors of mystery series. I read Starvation Lake as #1 in an unfamiliar series, and I am looking forward to working my way through the rest of the books by Bryan Gruley. This was an excellent story of a man, a community, and a crime. I enjoyed the development of each aspect, and by the end I felt like I really belonged. Gruley's writing is spare and direct. He doesn't frustrate with a lot of red herrings and blind leads, but he does require you pay attention--you will be surprised by the ending!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2010

    Good Stuff

    This is an excellent book for being a first timer. It is a very good mystery story. Didn't know what to expect from this author, but I was not at all disappointed with the effort. I can now look forward to reading his latest story "The Hanging Tree". I have confidence it will be every bit as good as the first. I am a big hockey fan, so I enjoyed his story line.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    Jayfeather

    Mmmmm. I love the smell of erbs.

    2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2011

    Great Read!! Couldn't put it down

    This was a great mystery. I would end up reading it for hours at a time, too good to put down

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    Michigan hockey special

    If you love Michigan and/or hockey you will like this book. I learned a lot about the psychology of hockey. Good escape reading - especially during Stanley Cup time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2009

    A great yarn!

    At the end of every chapter I couldn't stop. I had to get to the next one. Great characters in a wonderfully detailed locale.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    Only if you LOVE hockey

    I love mysteries, and do not mind sidelines with other interests. This book is not for people like me. If you love hockey and do not mind a murder mystery on the side, you'll probably like it. Plot twist at the end was the only part I really enjoyed. Waste of my money for this reason...wish I had just checked it out at the library instead of purchasing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    I live in northern michigan

    My first book by this author. I love all the hometown phrases...two track...sleds...downstate.Written by someone who has spent time "up north", a place we all love and would like to keep to ourselves.That being said, the story is way to wordy,I will read the next in the series because I like the scenery he writes about...To all of you idiots who use your nook to send messages to each other...BUY A COMPUTER and leave this space for people who enjoy reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

    Brutal.

    Not my style, but readable.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2013

    I was undecided to give one star or two; I went with two because

    I was undecided to give one star or two; I went with two because this author seems to have promise. I only paid $1.99 for the nook book, so I can't complain too much about wasted money, just wasted time. I skimmed through much of the book because of the long, drawn out descriptions of hockey games. I could never understand the psyche of people in towns that get wrapped up in high school sports to the point that their own self-worth is tied to the success of the team. This is going on in this book, although the hockey team is a club team, not a school team. The main character is a bit of a wuss who lets his employees speak to him disrespectfully, and never seems to respond to the put-downs the town's people hurl at him about a long-ago game. The story drags in many spots, including the ending which could have been handled quicker. I won't be reading anything else by this author, even for $1.99.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Buried Secrets

    The book opens in February, 1998

    "You can never look into their eyes. Not once. Not for a second. Not if you're a goaltender, like me. Because the guy shooting the puck wants you to look there. Then he'll glance one way and shoot the other, or he'll draw your eyes up just as he snaps the puck between your legs. Or he'll lock on you just long enough to remind you that he knows exactly what he's about to do and you don't, THAT YOU'RE JUST WISHING AND HOPING THAT YOU'LL GUESS RIGHT. THAT YOU'RE NOT AT ALL IN CONTROL."

    It is those last couple of phrases that could sum up Gus Carpenter's life. He's playing the same position he played when he was a kid growing up in Starvation Lake but he thought Starvation Lake was behind him when he was working for the DETROIT TIMES, when he was sure he had a Pulitzer prize winning story, before it all fell apart. Now he is back in Starvation Lake, editor and writer for the PILOT, Starvation Lake's weekly newspaper. He was wishing and hoping that he'd guessed right about the article he was writing, an article even too big for Detroit. But he found out he wasn't in control and he had to leave Detroit and return to the place on which he had turned his back, he was sure, forever.

    At 34, Gus is playing hockey with the same group of men he had played with growing up, the same group of kids who had had their skills honed by Jack Blackburn, who had turned up out of nowhere in 1970 and had made them so good that they had almost won the state championship. All these years later, Starvation Lake hasn't forgotten that Gus Carpenter lost that game when he let the puck sail by. He learned that night that all the wishing and hoping in the world couldn't guarantee that he would guess right. He learned that despite the best coaching from Jack Blackburn, he wasn't in control. The town never let him forget and they were never going to forgive.

    Jack Blackburn had built the reputation of Starvation Lake as the ideal year-round sports destination on Michigan's Upper Peninsula on the skates of this perfect hockey team he had created from a bunch of young boys who believed every word the coach said about their greatness and their futures in hockey. He had become a major investor and the chief cheerleader for Starvation Lake. Then the team lost the championship and Jack Blackburn died when a snowmobile he was riding fell through a hole in the ice on the lake. His body was never found and the dreams of Starvation Lake as sports mecca died, too.

    Ten years later, Jack Blackburn's snowmobile resurfaces, not at Starvation Lake where witnesses claimed to have seen the accident, but at Walleye Lake, miles away. What was truth is no longer truth and as Gus investigates he learns that there are many secrets in Starvation Lake that tell him he doesn't really know the town at all.

    STARVATION LAKE is a very good book. Living near Boston when Bobby Orr was king of the ice, I know how obsessed even big cities can be about hockey. It is the game played by 10 year-olds at 4:00 am, the only time available for practice. One of my nephews is now the coach of a hockey team in Sweden; he is a natural athlete. He was blessed in that his father never thought he was going to be the re-incarnation of Orr. Hockey seems to impose itself on the people involved in it perhaps because it is the most physical game. T

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    Is this really a first novel?

    Yes, it is but the author is a long-time journalist and you know how that adds to a first novel. I loved it and am looking forward to his second, due October 2010. Don't read if you are squeamish about pedophilia.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good book, but ...

    This was a solid, well-written 200 page book. Unfortunately the author took 370 pages to tell the story. There were, by my count, six back stories going on and two major story lines. Way overdone.
    And the ending, without giving anything away, was trite and even featured a deux ex machina to tie up one of the loose ends.
    The author is new to fiction and no doubt thought the complexity of the plot(s) would pay off in a better book. They don't.
    More effort should have gone into the characters and their development and a whole lot less into the convoluted multiple plot lines. We barely get to know any of the characters, including the protagonist.
    Worth the read, but lets hope the author gets a better editor and has a tighter, better novel for his next offering.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good But Could Have Been Great

    This book has a very "Mystic River" feel to it. Even the titles are similar as they both reference bodies of water. Gus Carpenter is a reporter for the local newspaper (The Pilot). One day he spies the police recovering what looks like the snowmobile that belonged to his hockey coach (Blackburn) who supposedly drowned in Starvation Lake several years earlier. As Gus tries to investigate the details of what actually happened to Blackburn, everybody seems to not want to talk to him from the police to his own mother. What makes it worse is that everybody has an attitude like they are hiding something "dirty" but forget about it and move on.
    Meanwhile Gus is dealing with a few problems of his own such as it seems he was mysteriously run out of Detroit from a reporting job that he had. As Gus lets the details come to the surface, the reader learns that Gus must give up a source from a story he covered or he will face going to jail and also lose a cash settlement for a family he tried to help.

    This book had all the elements to be great but what hurt it for me is that people make it too obvious throughout that they are hiding something. As the book unfolds the "dirty" secret surrounding Blackburn becomes apparent to the reader, while it takes Gus till close to the end of the book to figure it out. Also the reader can guess what actually befell Blackburn so it is no secret when it is actually revealed. I give this book about three and a half stars but round it grudgingly up to four.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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