The Skeleton Box
Brian Gruley
Simon & Schuster 2012

The Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley is the third mystery in his Starvation Lake trilogy.

Starvation Lake is a quiet, ordinary, close knit Michigan community, where many people are still known by their childhood nicknames, and most share a dedicated and intense pride and passion for hockey.  It is a safe haven where trusting residents seldom lock their doors.  Murder is a stranger there, with the last such crime occurring way back in the 1940s.

All of that abruptly changes when the town is besieged by a series of break-ins that occur while homeowners are out playing Bingo.  Nothing is taken, but it is evident that the ransacked homes are being searched for something significant.

The Bingo Break-ins take a deadly more sinister turn when elderly Phyllis Bontrager is checking on her best friend Bea, who has been exhibiting signs of confusion and early dementia.

Phyllis is found dead and Bea, whose home was targeted, is called in for questioning, but she has little recollection of what has transpired.  Her son Gus, writer and editor of the Pine County Pilot, and his former flame Deputy Darlene Esper are driven to discover the shocking truth.  All they have to go on is the word “Nye-less”; the cryptic clue left by the victim on her daughter’s voice mail.

They soon find that Starvation Lake harbours deep, dark secrets that have impacted lives for generations.  As the mystery deepens, the long buried past is dragged into the present, questioning the very moral code of the town’s forthright citizens.  Many are not who they pretend to be.  Suspicions abound, as the community is rocked by scandal and deceit.

Suspenseful from the start and full of surprises, The Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley is an entertaining, well written mystery novel with solid, interesting characters and a layered intricate plot.  Murder is only part of the story.

Brian Gruley is a skilled writer.  He immediately pulls you in, gets you thinking, and makes you want to discover how everything plays out. The Skeleton Box is easily a recommended read.