Starvation Lake

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Title: Starvation Lake
Author: Bryan Gruley
Pages: 370
Genre: Mystery, Literary
Publisher: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: March 3, 2009

Starvation Lake was a great, solid, mystery novel that read not just like a mystery genre book, but with more literary elements -- a story about a small town with great characters encountering a mystery of their own. Though this was only his debut, Bryan Gruley has already been compared to the likes of Dennis Lehane. (For the record, I haven't read any of his books yet but have heard wonderful things)!

Starvation Lake centers around the town of the same name. Gus Carpenter is the editor of the local newspaper, The Pilot, which is sort of bittersweet for him. He was able to escape from his small town years prior, but after a scandal he became involved in at The Detroit Times, he was forced to return home shamefacedly to his peers who never left. So while he has risen to status of editor, he is still running from the drama that ensued in Detroit, wishing he could do more with his career. Ten years prior to the start of the novel (the actual novel, not the epilogue), a popular hockey coach is killed in a snowmobile accident when the snowmobile goes down in the lake. At the beginning of this novel, the snowmobile miraculously surfaces -- only it's on a different lake miles away from where it went down. What does this mean?? Why was the snowmobile never found in the first place? Rumors abound about underground tunnels connecting the lakes or alternate theories to the death of the hockey coach.

I was so engaged while reading this novel. Mystery lovers will enjoy the mystery involved, but lovers of fiction in general, especially those of small towns, will also find something to love about this book. Each of the characters had their own quirks; they were greatly defined and contributed to the story so well. Hockey is a huge part of this novel as it sounds like it's quite the popular sport in Michigan. It's the football of Friday Night Lights. If you love hockey or watching sports this whole factor of the novel might reel you in. One of Gus's flaws as emphasized by the rest of the town was his failure, as goalie, to stop the last goal from being made against his team during the championship game when he was a kid. Even though he's grown up and plays for an adult league for fun, he has never lived down the event in itself or the manner in which it effected his self-esteem, knowing he is to blame for disappointing the dreams of the entire town.

Another aspect I really enjoyed that I haven't seen much in other books was the behind-the-scenes look at putting together an entire newspaper. They had the job of the typical media wanting to be the first to get certain news out, but being in a small town, they also had to deal with politics in what scandals they published. And if Gus Carpenter was okay with something he still had to run it by the big guys who didn't always see things the same way. I think the thought of being a journalist is so fun and interesting, so seeing it from this perspective was one of my favorite things about this book. They get to write, they get to interview people, investigate situations, etc., and when they decide to report on the story of the previously submerged -- newly surfaced snowmobile, they run into secrets that are scandalous and dangerous.

This is definitely the beginning of a series to pay attention to! The second book in this series just recently came out and I can assure you I will be reading it soon, so look out for that review!


Amy said...

Sounds like an interesting book - the inclusion of hockey should make it a few more fans north of the border ;)

Zibilee said...

I love mysteries that are deftly plotted and literary, so this book sounds like an excellent choice for me. Have you read anything by Laura Lippman? I think that would be good fit for you as well.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I have this book. Why have i not read it yet? Your review convinces me I need to boost it up.

Jenny said...

Amy -- haha, true! It's funny b/c I'm down here in Florida where no one plays hockey!! There actually is a semi-pro(?) hockey team (Tampa Bay Lightning, maybe) around here but I don't know much about them!

Heather -- I haven't but have been meaning to. Thanks for the suggestion! I think I have What the Dead Know somewhere on my TBR...

Michelle -- Haha, yes, move it up!

nomadreader said...

You had me at literary mystery! But a new series as well? I'm sold!

Trisha said...

Oh my heavens, another series! I have so many going right now, and I keep reading about more. :)

Jenny said...

nomadreader -- lol! it's fun to start a new series!

trisha -- haha i know what you mean! I have so many others I've been meaning to read too!

bermudaonion said...

Oh, I love mysteries like that and am excited to hear of an author being compared to Lehane!

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

Literary mystery, eh? I will keep an eye out for this one. :-)

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

I really like the cover on this one.... I am so attracted to books because of the visuals.

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