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Review: ‘The Skeleton Box’ by Bryan Gruley

Bryan Gruley

Bryan Gruley

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Bryan Gruley will discuss and sign copies of The Skeleton Box:

• 7 p.m. June 18 at Cook Park Library, 413 N. Milwaukee, Libertyville.

• 7 p.m. June 20 at the Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln.

• 7 p.m. June 25 at Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson, Naperville.

Updated: July 11, 2012 6:05AM

The mythical village of Starvation Lake, Mich., is an authentic realm of piney woods, deadman’s curves, working-class bars, lakefront cottages, friendly neighbors, town drunks, rampant gossip and small-town cops where almost everyone is obsessed with the fate of a junior hockey team called the River Rats.

Chicago author Bryan Gruley introduced us to the place in his first novel, Starvation Lake (2009), and then revisited it in his second novel, The Hanging Tree (2010). But The Skeleton Box (Touchstone, $25), the third in a series featuring the adventures of Gus Carpenter, editor of the town’s little newspaper, The Pine County Pilot, is his best work to date.

The writing is tighter and more vivid than ever, the setting so well-drawn you’ll swear you’ve been served a brewski by Gus’ pal Soupy at Enwright’s Pub, sat in the stands to cheer for the River Rats and taken a dip in the deep, cold lake.

Best of all, the plot is emotionally wrenching and filled with more twists and turns than the little town’s winding, often snow-choked roads.

As the tale opens, the townspeople are in a panic about a series of house break-ins. Gus’ paper has dubbed them the “Bingo Night Robberies” because on each weekly game night, someone ransacks the empty home of an elderly resident. The weird part? The burglar never takes anything.

Things get worse when the burglar hits the home of Gus’ mother, Bea, and Phyllis, the mother of Gus’ ex-girlfriend Darlene, ends up dead.

Gruley says the novel was inspired by a true story: the disappearance of Sister Mary Jane Janina in Isadore, Mich., in 1907.


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