Title: Starvation Lake
Author: Bryan Gruley
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!