The Skeleton Box
By Bryan Gruley
A series of break-ins has left the people of Starvation Lake, Michigan wary and a little fearful. The latest intrusion results in a dead body. The house is owned by the mother of reporter Gus Carpenter and the victim was a close friend. When Gus starts investigating, the case cracks open the seal on a box of secrets kept hidden for decades. Gus tries to find the connection between the recent murder, the disappearance of a nun from the 1940s, why a mysterious entity is buying up land in town, and the odd behavior of a group of religious folks on the outskirts of town. The case turns even more personal when Gus’ mother is arrested and evidence links her to the nun.
A very nice puzzler. It has the added dimension of enigmatic clues written on pieces of torn paper. Like many stories, it brings in a town’s and its residents’ histories with group of women sharing a secret.
Gus Carpenter: newspaper editor for the Pine Country Pilot, plays on a men’s hockey team and is assistant coach for a youth team. Worked at a Detroit paper for ten years. Dad is dead. Drives a truck.
Darlene Esper: Pine County Sheriff’s Deputy, Gus’ ex girlfriend
Dingus Aho: Pine County Sheriff, big man, handlebar moustache, smokes
Beatrice Carpenter: 66, Gus’ mother, has memory problems, adopted, family all dead except for a step brother, lapsed Catholic
Luke Whistler: 56, white hair, reporter, former Pulitzer Prize finalist with the Detroit Free Press, very passionate about his stories, married and divorced the same woman twice, mother was an alcoholic, drives a Toronado, wears a gold pinky ring
Roy ‘Tatch’ Edwards: Goalie on the hockey team, a born again Christian who lives in a trailer camp with a group of religious people, nephew lives with him, has a scar above his left eyebrow
A bunch of unique and very distinctive people. There are a lot of characters, each with just the right amount of background information. From the unyielding and secretive religious leader to the golf playing Catholic Father. With a small town and Carpenter’s connection to other newspapers you are necessarily going to get a lot of personalities meshing and conflicting.
Pretty standard but distinctive voices throughout. Conversations don’t wander.
Written in first person tense from Gus’ POV. Many instances of profanity. Tight writing. Gruley knows grammar and language and the proper way to use both. Gruley also does a fine job of doling out clues and revelations. All in all, a very enjoyable book and one worth keeping.