The Skeleton Box (Starvation Lake Series #3)

The Skeleton Box (Starvation Lake Series #3)

4.3 3
by Bryan Gruley
     
 

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Does Gus Carpenter really want to know what’s inside the skeleton box? In Anthony– and Barry Award–winning author Bryan Gruley’s gripping new novel, Gus must decide if the truth is better off dead and buried.

Mysterious break-ins are plaguing the small town of Starvation Lake. While elderly residents enjoy their weekly bingo night

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Overview

Does Gus Carpenter really want to know what’s inside the skeleton box? In Anthony– and Barry Award–winning author Bryan Gruley’s gripping new novel, Gus must decide if the truth is better off dead and buried.

Mysterious break-ins are plaguing the small town of Starvation Lake. While elderly residents enjoy their weekly bingo night at St. Valentine’s Catholic Church, someone is slipping into their homes to rifle through financial and personal files. Oddly, the intruder takes nothing—yet the “Bingo Night Burglaries” leave the entire town uneasy.

Worry turns into panic when a break-in escalates to murder. Suddenly, Gus Carpenter, editor of the Pine County Pilot, is forced to investigate the most difficult story of his life. Not only is the victim his ex-girlfriend Darlene’s mother, but her body was found in the home of Bea Carpenter—Gus’s own mother. Suffering from worsening dementia and under the influence of sleeping pills, Bea remembers little of the break-in.

With the help of Luke Whistler, a former Detroit Free Press reporter who came north looking for slower days and some old-fashioned newspaper work, Gus sets out to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when the story leads him to a lockbox his mother has kept secret for years, Gus doesn’t realize that its contents could forever change his perception of Starvation Lake, his own family, and the value of the truth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in Starvation Lake, Mich., Edgar-finalist Gruley’s winning third novel featuring local newspaper editor Gus Carpenter (after 2010’s The Hanging Tree) finds him playing goalie for a men’s hockey league in his spare time and looking after his mother, who’s gradually slipping into dementia. A series of burglaries has the placid community on edge, and the townspeople demand action after an elderly friend of Carpenter’s mother is murdered. Assisted by his on-again, off-again police officer girlfriend, Carpenter determines to find the truth, which may reach back to the 50-year-old disappearance of a beautiful young nun. As Carpenter and veteran investigative reporter Luke Whistler venture into unexpected places, it becomes clear that someone is willing to go to any length to keep the past buried. While the small town as a variant of the locked-room mystery has been done before, Gruley injects freshness into a familiar story. 20-city author tour. Agent: Erin Malone, William Morris Endeavor. (June)
Associated Press Staff
“Gruley’s best work to date. . . . The writing is tighter and more vivid than ever. The characters are so real you could almost reach out and shake their hands.”
From the Publisher
“Bryan Gruley is a gifted writer, and in The Skeleton Box he's turned his gifts to the secrets and lies which ultimately rip apart Starvation Lake. Gus Carpenter, editor of a local paper on its last legs, finds himself in the center of a murder inquiry when his mother's best friend is killed - and his mother becomes a prime suspect. Gruley writes elegiacally about small town America, but his deepest love is for its newspaper.” —Sara Paretsky

“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 author who has mastered the conventions of his genre. Discriminating readers will be anxiously awaiting the third book in this promising series.” Associated Press

“Bryan Gruley is off to a phenomenal start!” —Michael Connelly

“A major talent.” —Harlan Coben

“Bryan Gruley: Remember the name. You should be hearing it often in the future." —The San Diego Union-Tribune

Library Journal
A series of puzzling break-ins in the town of Starvation Lake doesn't appear to add up to much until one awful evening when an intruder murders the best friend of journalist Gus Carpenter's mother. Seemingly out of nowhere, her last whispered word is the name of a long-gone parish priest, Father Nilus Moreau. Newspaperman that he is, Gus digs through his paper's microfilm and finds a connection between the priest and a young nun who vanished in 1944. Gus's mom, already suffering from mild dementia, finally shares some of her secrets with him, ones that have the potential to tear apart the town. Through it all, the locals play hockey. VERDICT Better late than never if you haven't started reading or recommending Gruley's outstanding trilogy (Starvation Lake; The Hanging Tree). The author brings his own background as a reporter to the story of his Michigan newspaperman who loves hockey and his small town. His characters successfully convey the realities of today's troubled economy and remind us that old secrets can be even more painful when discovered later. Consider crossover reading for Richard Russo fans.
Kirkus Reviews
The inexplicable murder of his mother's dearest friend sends Upper Michigan journalist Gus Carpenter, of the dying Pine County Pilot, back for another bracing trip to his town's endlessly sordid past. Whoever the Bingo Night Burglar is, he's pulled off his first four jobs with a minimum of fuss: nobody harmed, nothing even stolen. But the break-in at the home of Gus' mother, Beatrice, leaves her next-door neighbor and old friend Phyllis Bontrager dead. Who would kill the inoffensive Mrs. B, who was on the scene only to stay with her failing friend? Mrs. B's mysterious last non-word, "Nye-less," sets Gus on the trail of a missing nun and a monstrous coverup 50 years old--a coverup that's been so successful for so long that he, his ex-girlfriend Darlene Esper and Pilot reporter Luke Whistler have to go several rounds with interloping born-again troublemaker Wayland Breck, Detroit PR fixer Regis Repelmaus and golfing cleric Father Tim Reilly before the case comes to a head in a choleric judge's chambers. Nor will they get much help from Pine County Sheriff Dingus Aho, who has to deal with an electoral challenge from his nasty little deputy Frank D'Alessio. Just in case all these conflicts aren't enough, Gruley (The Hanging Tree, 2010, etc.) also showcases the River Rats, the teen hockey team Gus coaches, battling to go all the way to the state championship Gus blew himself when he let through the winning overtime goal 20 years earlier. Complex but lumpy, perhaps because of the true-crime roots a closing note reveals. But there's no mistaking Gruley's fierce love for his frigid hamlet.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416563662
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Series:
Starvation Lake Series, #3
Pages:
322
Sales rank:
944,890
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

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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The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Skeleton Box is the third book in Bryan Gruley's Starvation Lake Mystery series.  I have read all three books, and I thought all were very well written.  The author worked for a newspaper and covered stories just like his protagonist Gus Carpenter.  He creates very likeable characters and in some cases I was sorry they died in the course of the series.  Starvation Lake is a town that is slowly fading away and dying.  He is the editor of the Newspaper and gets involved with events when crimes are commited in Stravation Lake.  This book  begins when a series of home break-ins begin on Bingo Night.  And it quickly escalates to more serious crimes.  This book is worth reading.  It will keep you turning pages to the very end.  Small town newspapers serve a purpose, and their disappearance is a national problem.  Somebody has to keep an eye on thieves, politicians, and the police department.  Logging onto the internet to read a newspaper isn't as attention-getting as having to walk out to your sidewalk.  Give this book a read!  
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
A very old and deep-seated secret brings to an end the Starvation Lake trilogy. It begins with a series of home invasions in the quaint Michigan town on Bingo Night, when inhabitants are obviously away from their houses. The only mystery, however, is that nothing seems to be missing and the sheriff’s inability to solve the crimes is affecting his reelection efforts. Then the home of Gus Carpenter’s mother, who appears to be in the early throes of dementia, is invaded on a night she chooses to go to sleep instead of playing bingo, and her best friend is found dead on the bathroom floor, bringing Gus to accelerate his investigation as editor of the local paper, and uncovering a scandal of epic and personal proportions rooted in the long past. This novel is somewhat less satisfying than the preceding two books in the series, despite the same characters and setting. The town’s (and the author’s) enthusiasm for ice hockey remains pleasant and exciting, and Gus’ efforts to uncover the truth are rewarding. The writing is on the same high plane of its predecessors, but somehow it doesn’t quite measure up to that admittedly lofty standard. Frankly, if this does in fact conclude the Starvation Lake series, I’ll miss the town, and I hope the author has another gem up his sleeve. Recommended.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
There are more than a few secrets hiding in the small town of Starvation Lake, Michigan, and this author has brought them to the surface in such a way that if you wanted to put the book down for another day, you could not. As the story opens, we learn that there have been a rash a break-ins in town recently and they have all happened when the residents are away playing bingo at the local Catholic Church. The eerie thing about these break-ins is that nothing is stolen, the burglar just goes through the residents' personal papers. The main character, Gus Carpenter, runs the local paper, The Pine County Pilot, and he and his reporter, Luke Whistler, are on the case. They like to try to shake up the local police as they have had no luck at all in finding the Bingo Night Burgler. Sadly, one night, two ladies decide not to go to bingo and are in the house (which happens to be Gus's mother's house) when the burglar arrives and unfortunatly, one of them is killed. The victim is Phyllis Bontrager, the mother of Gus's former girlfriend, Darlene, who is a police officer and Bea Carpenter's best friend. Bea Carpenter, Gus's mother, is suffering from the first stages of dememtia and remembers very little of the break-in. The Sheriff, Dingus Aho, who is coming up for election, is under pressure to solve these crimes and, to top it all off, one of his officers is out on the streets asking the townspeople to vote for him for Sheriff and he will clean up the mess. Many plots come to the fore at this time. Gus, editor of the town newspaper wants to cover the crime and most others just want to cover the crime up; he still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend, and he is always fighting with the people who own the newspaper and want to shut it down and last, but certainly not least he is helping to coach the town hockey team, The River Rats, in their quest for the state junior hockey championship. Now, back to the secrets. Gus and Luke (who has his own agenda) are out there trying to dig up some clues to Phyllis's murder and the burglaries. They come up against numerous blank walls including a secret box that his mother has been keeping for many years. Also, Luke has some secrets too and is investigating on his own. It seems that the mystery leads them to the long-ago disappearance of a Roman Catholic nun from the local diocese and a box that was buried in the woods. The reader will feel like they can talk, touch, stand up and cheer for the hockey team and, ride along with the characters in this novel of a small-town world where everyone knows everyone and everyone else's business. This is the third in a series about Gus Carpenter (the others are The Hanging Tree and Starvation Lake). Although The Skeleton Box is definitely a stand alone novel, it might be interesting to read the others first just to see where everyone came from. Quill Says: Sometimes a secret should remain a secret...don't be so quick to try and solve the puzzle. This is a wonderfully written book that yanks you right into this small town world and you won't want to stop until the last page. A definite keeper!