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The Sirens of Suspense


Though Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, hasn’t lived a completely unremarkable life, nothing has prepared him for what he uncovers in THE SKELETON BOX, the latest of Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake mysteries. We find Gus still fighting the potential closure of the paper, playing goalie, and looking after his mother, whose dementia is gradually worsening. A series of burglaries on bingo night unsettle the small town, which escalates when Gus' on-again-off-again girlfriend Darlene's mother is murdered—with Gus' own mother left the only witness. Although Gus would search for the truth in any case, the murder brings the crime too close to home. Perhaps closer than he anticipates, as some decades-old secrets may be buried in his own back yard. 

In addition to Gruley's usual well-crafted plot, there's a passion in this book that adds a layer to his writing we haven't seen before. The burglaries and subsequent murder, put the town into a panic which, thanks to the author’s brilliant pacing, leaps off the page. However, the mob mentality and urgency that is prevalent throughout the earlier chapters gives way to a quiet reflection that allows the reader to feel a sense of calm focus and closure at the end. The emotional pulse of the town—and Gus—create this feeling, which is so very different from the first two books which have, not only a small town feel (which it is), but a sense that things in Starvation Lake move at a slower pace than the rest of the world. Gus’ mom is a major character in this book for the first time, and I personally enjoyed seeing more of her. Writing a character with memory issues is a challenge, but yet again Gruley uses it to his advantage to keep the readers in suspense and dole out hints to the mystery. It’s fascinating to see how her past so strongly affected her future, as well of that of her friends, family, and son.

THE SKELETON BOX is a multi-layered book for smart readers. Outside of the mystery at the core, we see plots which are individual microcosms representing a whole. The relationship between man and woman, boy and family, church and worshiper, big business and small. Gruley doesn't hold us by the hand and spell things out. He takes the reader on a very realistic journey with a character who is fallible, takes the wrong path, misinterprets the evidence, and we have to keep up the pace with him. 

I had a hint from the author that although some are touting this as the "final" Starvation Lake mystery, that may not in fact be the case. I certainly hope not. We've watched Gus—not to mention the town— grow and develop until he discovers who he is and where he belongs. I for one, can't wait to see what he does next. If my information is flawed, and this is indeed the end, it was a great journey and Gruley closed the circle in a tremendously satisfying way.



HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THE STARVATION LAKE MYSTERIES? Tell us what you think by using the comment box or on our Facebook page and be entered to win a signed copy of STARVATION LAKE!


(Note: Bryan Gruley will be guest-blogging for us next week, so check back then! We’ll be taking entries from both posts into consideration.)

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