Publication Date: March 3, 2009
This Flashback Review, originally posted on Amazon.com, takes us back to February 13, 2009. There have been times when I have been very lucky to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy of a novel from an author. This novel was one of those very lucky times.
A friend had met the author at Boucheron in Washington D.C. and suggested that Gruley and I connect via e-mail. This friend knew that, as a Michigan native, I would love a novel set in Northern Michigan. She also thought that, as my very small daughter was playing hockey at the time, I would have a place to hang posters advertising the novel.
I remember very clearly reading the opening passage while watching my 7-year-old playing a Sunday morning game. No setting could have been better to start this book. I read obsessively until this end. I’ve been to northern Michigan many times, and while Starvation Lake is a fictional town, it’s painted so perfectly that I could picture it as any of the many small towns of the Upper Peninsula. Again, no worries about offending the author with a not so positive review, this was an awesome read.
My review as it appeared on February 13, 2009 is below. Enjoy.
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley was a seriously enjoyable read. Cleverly plotted and told in stunning hockey flashback with well-rounded and entertaining characters, Gruley sets the stage for what I hope will become a very long series.
Gus is a small town journalist back from the big city. His hockey coach died in a skimming (riding snowmobiles over a not quite frozen lake) accident ten years before on one lake and his snowmobile turns up on a different lake with a bullet hole in the hood. Is it the lake tunnels? Was the coach’s death not an accident? Gus sets out to find out and uncovers far more in a little town where everyone knows something and few people are saying anything.
I found the tone of this first novel from an award-winning journalist to be very relaxed — I hate to compare to other authors, but it is almost Crais-like in the narrative. The small town is alive—anyone could picture it—and the characters are well drawn and fleshed out; so if this series does continue as seems to be the plan from an interview with Gruley, we’re off to a good start. The plotlines are unpredictable but logical, and I found, while reading, myself pulled into this book further and further to the point where it was just really hard not to wonder while doing other things what would happen next. The ending was clever and just wonderfully laid out.
If you buy one book from a new author this year, this one is well worth the cost of admission.
Reviewer’s note: Mr. Gruley’s third book in the Starvation Lake series, The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery (Starvation Lake Mysteries) hit the shelves on June 5, 2012.
Read an excerpt and buy Starvation Lake: A Mystery by Bryan Gruley on