Starvation Lake, Bryan Gruley’s debut novel that was nominated for just about every award in the mystery field, is every bit as good as advertised.
The protagonist Gus Carpenter, editor of the Pine County Pilot–circulation 4,733–doesn’t expect he’ll face the controversies he did during his stay at the Detroit Times, where he took a fall that continues to haunt him. The Pilot, based in his hometown of Starvation Lake, is more apt to run an article on a guy who believes in Bigfoot than hard-hitting news. But when pieces of a snowmobile that went down with Gus’ former hockey coach years ago washes up on the shore of a different lake from where the coach was believed to have drowned, Gus finds himself investigating the death. Was it murder? Gus, who was goalie for the team the coach led to the losing end of the state championship finals, discovers the coach had a secret so terrible that people who knew it likely wanted him dead. Gus is forced to confront his own fiends and former teammates to find out who wanted the coach’s secret buried—not just then, but still today.
Gruley, who is the Chicago bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, makes Gus a convincing journalist and adds layers of intrigue to the story that keep the pages turning. In the end, Gus is an investigative hero in the mold of Woodward or Bernstein, refusing to bend to higher powers that threaten to silence him if he won’t stop digging. His daring determination to learn the truth provides an uplifting end to a story set in a cold, blue-collar town that’s dying in more ways than one. Hockey fans will love this book, but as evidenced from all the awards it’s garnered, hockey is not the main reason readers are skating into Starvation Lake to find out who iced who.