Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review - The Skeleton Box


The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery

By: Bryan Gruley
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6366-2
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: June 2012

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!