All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Starvation Lake – Bryan Gruley

on December 14, 2010

Gus Carpenter is back in Starvation Lake, his home town, after a failed attempt at the big time in Detroit. Burned by a story he thought could win him the big one, he’s taken on the editing job of his local paper while he attempts to regroup and decide what he wants to do next. Plagued by a lawsuit that threatens everything, he is distracted when, in the depths of a Michigan winter, a snow mobile (or bits of it) wash up on the shores of Walleye Lake. Rumour has it that it’s the snow mobile of Jack Blackburn, Gus’ old hockey coach.

Jack Blackburn was a legend in the eyes of Starvation Lake. He arrived, he took the boys under his wing and took them further and further each year, all the way to the state championship final the year Gus was 17. Although they didn’t win, none of the blame fell upon Coach Blackburn – he was idoled and revered. He took a dying town and used hockey to turn it around, pumping money in for the ice rink, a billboard and drawing tourist dollars. Gus and the other boys thought the world of Coach, even though he could be tough on them. Very tough. But after their failed championship game, Gus and the Coach rarely spoke again. Gus went to college and then to work in Detroit and Coach died in a snow mobile accident on Starvation Lake. The body and his snow mobile were never found. So if Jack came to grief in Starvation Lake, why is his snow mobile washing up on the shores of Walleye Lake? Are  there really tunnels underneath the lakes, connecting them all, as some people believe? Or is someone not telling the truth? What really did happen to Coach Blackburn?

Until now. Now Gus is investigating what looks to be the possible murder of his former coach, when a bullet hole is found in the remains of the snow mobile. As the town now prepares to dredge the lake, something they never did years ago when the Coach’s accident occurred, Gus is discovering some more gaping holes in the original story. Some people know more than they were letting on years ago. The investigation was hushed up, stalled, incomplete. Even Gus’ own mother, involved through being the house Coach’s snow mobile partner went to for help after the accident, seems to know more than she’s saying. Everywhere Gus looks though he’s faced with resistance from the town. After all, Coach was the town hero. And Gus was the goalie that let by the goal that lost them the state championships. The town doesn’t want him poking around in Coach’s death.

But Gus can’t let it go. There are too many things that are twigging his reporter’s instinct and he has his chief reporter, a bulldog named Joanie who is digging around too. The further Gus digs, the more disturbing things he uncovers. Secrets that people have been keeping for years. Secrets that are being used as blackmail leverage. Secrets that possibly, some people have killed to protect. But the biggest surprise Gus will uncover is still yet to come.

Starvation Lake is a very well crafted and enjoyable mystery. Gus (short for Augustus) is one of those kids who escaped his small country town, made it in the bit city and then had it all yanked out from under his feet. From almost the beginning you know that Gus is sort-of disgraced but the build up to the reveal of just what went wrong for him is a slow burn and expertly done. He still bears the scars of losing the state championship match for the town and is still ribbed by it every day. You can’t help but feel for the impact this must’ve had on his pysche – after all, he was just one of the team and the further you get into it, the more you find out that the coach’s decisions impacted just as much on that match, if not more so. But Gus is still a kid who was pulled in by his coach with one hand and shoved away with the other and reporting in Detroit did the same thing.

The characters are all too real in this novel – I know what it’s like to grow up in a small-ish town, where everyone knows your business and gets involved in it, where everyone things they either made you or broke you. Some of the characters you can find in any place – big fishes in small ponds, that sort of thing. Gus himself was a complex character. Forced back into a place he really had no love for, and where he didn’t exactly feel welcome but doing the best he could with the job he could get while he tried to regroup. He possesses strong ethics and principles and even when fired and then threatened with law suits, isn’t bullied into giving up what people want from him. I did figure out one of the ‘big reveals’ way before Gus did but perhaps that was because I was on the outside looking in. Gus was involved with this man from the time he was very small and it’s very hard to take that leap that needed to be taken and put the clues Gus has together and get the right answer. I can see how it took him so long to get it and also it gives you a nice sense of urgency as you urge him to actually make the connection yourself. I didn’t get the last reveal though, so Gus beat me to the punch there!

Starvation Lake was a great read on an unseasonably cold December afternoon! I’ve never experienced the sort of cold the lakes in Northern Michigan must get but I think this book needs to read when it’s cold, preferably icy and snowy if you get that sort of weather! And if you love or are interested in hockey, you’ll definitely enjoy this novel. There’s lots of talk of games and play and strategies and sports psychology. I don’t particularly like hockey and we don’t even play it here as such (ice hockey I’m referring to) but I really enjoyed reading about it and learning about it and got right into the story. I just saw there’s another Gus Carpenter book so I’ll be looking to read that. There’s a thing or two left hanging at the conclusion of this one and I’ll be interested to see how that goes!


Book #113 of 2010

This book qualifies for my What’s In A Name3? Challenge and is the last book I needed to read to complete the challenge!  This book fills criteria #2 – Read a book with a body of water in the title.

Wrap up post to follow!

2 responses to “Starvation Lake – Bryan Gruley

  1. hrose2931 says:

    You are a prolific reader. Daily I see several reviews from you. This one looks great! I don’t know if there are two many books for you! I love a good mystery. I might have to buy this one. We play hockey here in New England. I don’t know anything about it, but my son caddies for one of the retired heros up here. So, maybe I’ll read it. What rating would you give this? As far as age goes?

    Heather R.
    Buried in Books

    • Thank you 🙂 I have a bit of a backlog of reviews atm so they’ll be going up 1 a day for a while! Because of some of the scenes in the book revolving some stuff the coach was doing, which I didn’t want to mention to spoil the reveal, I’d say this book is probably best suited to 16yo and up. There’s a sexual scene and a couple of violent sort-of scenes, people getting smashed with hockey pucks and sticks, that sort of thing!

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