Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review #102: Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley

Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

This was another book that has been hanging out on my pile for about a year now. I recently received a copy of The Hanging Tree, the second book by this author. It prompted me to sit myself down and get going on this series that I knew I would love.
And I did!

Starvation Lake is a mystery/thriller through and through. It is also the name of the town in which it all takes place. A small town in Michigan, it is a place that Gus Carpenter wishes he didn't have to come back to. He finds himself back in his home town as the editor of the local newspaper, The Pilot. A big story is about to break the town's thin surface and expose many of long time residents. One snowy winter night, pieces of a snowmobile wash up on the lake shore. It is the same snowmobile that belonged to Starvation's legendary hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, who disappeared and had been presumed dead.

Gus Carpenter is a local boy with a love for hockey and a fondness for his old coach. Having played goalie in the River Rats, Blackburn's team, he looked to him as a father figure. Blackburn brought him and his friends, Soupy and Teddy, a bit of small town fame. The finding of his snowmobile on a lake five miles away from the one he supposedly drowned in brings up a lot of questions for Gus, as a reporter and as an old friend.

It's hard to believe that this was Gruley's first novel. He weaves an intricate character sketch and a complicated yet compulsively readable mystery/whodunnit. I was impressed. His style reminded me of Dennis Lehane, another mystery author I love.
It is obvious that Gruley knows about life in a town like Starvation, having grown up in a similar blue collar suburb near Detroit. Like Lehane, the town becomes a character itself and you definitely feel a part of the atmosphere and landscape; the bitter chill of Northern Michigan, the whispers of gossip at the local diner, the bureaucracy within the police department and the local government.

The twists and turns surprised me. I didn't see where it was going and was not entirely happy with the ending but it did resolve what needed resolving. The people I wanted to pay, did in some way. It did leave me lingering a bit but really I wanted to read more of Gus. I grew to like him and like any book, I imagine my own visual of characters regardless of how the author describes. Don't ask me why but generally if an author describes a main character as blonde and rugged, I get an image of someone whoever might pop in my mind at the time. Gerard Butler? Okay!

So for this one, I pictured Gus as Jake Gyllenhaal. ???
Mid thirties, loves his mom, athletic, serious, intense, independent, charming and still a little bit in love with the gal who got away. I saw Jake. Who knows?
It worked for me.

My only issue with this book aside from the ending was the major focus on hockey. It was a bit involved at times describing the game, the strategy, etc. Even though I grew up in and still live in the very cold state of Minnesota, I have never been a hockey fan. But I understood as a reader that the sport of hockey and the love of it was a huge part of the town's identity and Gus and his friends.

Rating: 5 stars/ 6 stars
I really enjoyed it overall. I was impressed with the sharp writing and intricate story line. It kept me guessing and intrigued. The ending I wasn't in love with but I was still wanting more of Gus. I look forward to picking up The Hanging Tree next. I do not know how many books are planned for this series with this character but I believe Bryan Gruley is an author to watch out for. Check out the website for the town below. It's pretty cool!

Happy reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This sounds fantastic. I love a good mystery and creepy thriller!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This does sound like a good mystery; thanks for mentioning it.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This one has been on my shelf for about a year too... a girl from my book club gave it to me and I just have not taken the time to read it.

Marce said...

I haven't heard of this one Michelle, but it does sound good.

Only book lovers will have books on their shelves for over a year

Ryan said...

I've just added this one to my wishlist. It sounds so good and you havne't steared me wrong on a mystery yet. Thanks for the review.