The Skeleton Box (Starvation Lake Series #3)

The Skeleton Box (Starvation Lake Series #3)

4.1 13
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 bingoSee more details below

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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 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

Publication date:
Starvation Lake Series , #3
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