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Starvation Lake (Starvation Lake Mystery #1)

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,740 ratings  ·  350 reviews
In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake, the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation's legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened five miles away on a different lake. As rumors buzz about mysterious underground tunnels, the evidence from the...more
Paperback, 370 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Touchstone
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Books for 2009
373rd out of 578 books — 2,385 voters
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Best Murder Mysteries Of All-Time
313th out of 450 books — 172 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Miss Kim
I was drawn to this book by the title, Starvation Lake. My family has had a cabin for over 40 years in that area, and my interest was peaked immediately. After I finished the book, I was even more pleased to learn that the author has a cabin Big Twin Lake, just like me!

The mystery is very well written, and there was more than one surprise. I highly recommend to any mystery fan, but it will be a special treat for those that are familiar with this area of Michigan. I enjoyed reading about the diff...more
Excellent Debut. One of the "Must Reads" of 2009.

Brief Synopsis:
The small town of Starvation Lake has had better days. Due to Coach Blackburn raising up a bunch of kids from the town into a competitor for the state hockey title, Starvation Lake become a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the team lost their one chance at the title and Coach Blackburn died in a snowmobile accident several years later.

Enter the main character, Gus Carpenter, in which the story is told in his first person narrative...more
Mar 12, 2009 Jackie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jackie by: March '09 IndieNext list
First time novelist Bryan Gruley (though seasoned writer--he's the Chicago Bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal) creates fascinating,multifaceted, believable characters in this book that you just KNOW you'd recognize if you walked past them on the street. Their quirks and their mysteries draw you in, as does the overlying story of new details emerging, literally, from the depths about the death of a beloved hockey coach. Presumed an accident, when bullet ridden evidence washes ashore 10 year...more
Nov 21, 2013 Ann rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Friends, Suspense readers, Tana French fans
Recommended to Ann by: Amazon
Fantastic! Aleady downloaded and started The Hanging Tree. Read it in a day. It was so suspenseful couldn't put it down. Looking forward to more from this author. Gus Carpenter and the characters from Starvation Lake were fabulously written. The plot engaging. Thought I might be put off at first with the ice hockey theme that ran through out, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Haven't enjoyed a book this much since Faithful Place. Definitely will recommend this book to friends.
Too much hockey! This would have been better as a novella. The primary plot was buried in hockey pucks. In the end, I was reminded of an old time mystery ploy where everyone gathered in the library where the villain(s) are revealed
Scott Rhee
Brian Gruley's debut novel "Starvation Lake" starts slowly but picks up at around the half-way point. It is there that it delves into some dark, unpleasant topics and a subject matter that may turn some readers off, understandably. At the risk of possibly giving away some spoilers, I'll refrain from mentioning what that subject matter is, just that it is vital to the storyline and cuts to the heart of the motive. Gruley handles it gracefully, though, and does not trivialize the issue by turning...more
Gus Carpenter left Starvation Lake to make a name for himself and to exonerate himself for a shame that had been lain on his shoulders when he was a boy playing hockey. He'd nearly done it too, but circumstances landed him back in his hometown, his image and reputation as a newspaper reporter tarnished. He works as an editor for the local paper in town, where his bosses prefer softer news to hard hitting stories. When new evidence surfaces about the death of his childhood hockey coach who had di...more
This is Gruley's first book and is set in northern Michigan. The protagonist Gus Carpenter is a journalist/editor who has returned to his hometown of Starvation Lake after leaving for the big city of Detroit where he ran into a little ethical trouble. This book recounts Gus' growing up years on the local hockey team and the mystery of some doings in Starvation Lake that occurred back in those days. I don't want to say more for fear of spoiling things. The characters drove this story for me. I li...more
Great story and mystery. I live in Michigan and so many of the places and references were familiar to me. I also love hockey which was a theme in this book. This was a page turner and I really liked the characters and character development. I literally did not want to put it down and was crazy with the anticipation of the ending, but still enjoyed the story and the new details and twists that kept popping up. The characters were very believable and even though it had some very gritty subject mat...more
Reporter returns home to small town where he lost a state championship hockey match and still plays hockey with his buds. Body of his former coach shows up, but not where it's supposed to be. Too foul-mouthed for my taste.
Excellent debut mystery. This book was nominated for both the Edgar and the Anthony for best first Novel. Really enjoyed the small town Michigan setting and the mix of sports and suspense.
A well crafted mystery, and I thoroughly enjoyed the northern Michigan setting.
Nov 20, 2008 Margaret rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Steve Hamilton, Wm. Kent Krueger, Robt. Crais fans
A good first novel/mystery. Not perfect, but pretty darn good for a first book. The author is a journalist, and the training is happily evident as he writes well and generally moves the story along. The locale is the town (and lake) of Starvation Lake, "up north" in Michigan - being a non-up north Michigander, it was fun, as always, to read a book set in nearby geography. The book includes a prologue that's never really explained, not clearly anyway, but it's short so keep reading and forget the...more
4.5 stars.

Gus Carpenter returns to Starvation Lake after working as a reporter in Detroit and getting into trouble by withholding the source of one of his stories.

Gus runs "The Pilot," a local newspaper and when a snowmobile washes up at Walleye Lake, Gus goes to the scene. Sheriff Dengus Aho refuses to give him any information but later, the vehicle is identified as that of missing hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, who hasn't been seen since 1988.

Gus assignes his reporter, Joanie McCarthy to invest...more
First Sentence: The cast-iron railing wobbled in his hand as he climbed the porch steps.

Gus Carpenter grew up in the small summer-resort town of Salvation Lake, Michigan, and was goalie for the town’s ice hockey team. He was hoping to become a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist in Detroit when his beloved boyhood hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, died by drowning in a snowmobiling accident.

Now, five year’s later, Gus was fired from his job in Detroit, and is back as assistant editor of the Salvation...more
Starvation Lake is a highly atmospheric novel, with memorable characters and a swiftly moving plot. Bryan Gruley writes so convincingly about small town life that the book, at some points, aspires to literary fiction. He also writes so well about hockey that it could be a poignant coming of age sports narrative. Instead, it chooses to be a mystery, but only manages to be a fairly decent addition to the genre.

Although the story, as conceived, is an interesting one, the protagonist/local reporter...more
Lexi Kate
As a mystery novel aficionado i have often found that, even allowing for the 'detective's prowess at their job, they are often too omniscient in regards to their 'case' or posses inhumanely accurate instincts. 'Trap', our protagonist in this story, falls into neither of those categories. In fact I understood at least part of the big picture before he did. This bothered me at first, I was used to my main characters figuring out the mystery before I even had an inkling, but then I realized that it...more
Jun 17, 2009 Nancy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
This was good. In large part, it was very good. I think he captured the feel of a dead-end newspaper guy in a small northern Michigan town really well, and I thought most of the characters had good honest voices. But man. I won't say much because I'd be giving away too much of the mystery's resolution, but he uses a plot point that I am really quite over in good mystery books. In fact, I finished this maybe two weeks ago but have waited to write about it, hoping I could get more objective about...more
When 32 yr. old journalist Gus Carpenter returns to work at his hometown paper after several years at a big newspaper in Detroit, it is a bittersweet time for him. He is bored until parts of a snowmobile wash up on Walleye Lake and it is determined to be the lost snowmobile of the much beloved former hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, presumed dead for many years. But Coach drowned on Starvation Lake, not Walleye. What's going on? And why is there a bullet found in the vehicle? Thus begins Gus's ques...more
While reading the first half of this book, I was ready to give it five stars. It really has a lot going for it. It reads like Richard Russo but with a plot. Small town prodigal son, great cast of characters, really clear sense of place.

Then something happened, which for the two long-time followers of my reviews will somewhat spoil the plot. That thing that I don't like to read about? Turns out the book is about it.

That said, it's handled much better here than in just about any other book I've...more
Eddy Allen

In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake � the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation's legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened five miles away on a different lake. As rumors buzz about mysterious underground tunnels, the evidence from the snowmobile says one thing: murder.

Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, has recently returned to Starvation after...more
Eddy Allen

In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake � the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation's legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened five miles away on a different lake. As rumors buzz about mysterious underground tunnels, the evidence from the snowmobile says one thing: murder.

Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, has recently returned to Starvation after...more
I originally hail from Michigan (although further south than this story's setting), so I appreciate the local color and Gruley's perfectly Michiganian setback for Gus in his final race to the answers. But what really makes this here is that while you'll likely catch on early to Gus's most obvious oversights in memory, Gruley twists the plot a few more times thereafter as he draws in greater depth.
While I like hockey, I don't know the game well and thought this book might be too sports oriented for me. Luckily I gave it a try anyway, and I'm so glad I did. This is a solid mystery, spiced up with a lot of personal drama and side stories which keep you reading hoping to find the answers to all the questions. While I felt that Gus's personal drama was sort of pushed to the side at the end of the book, I enjoyed the way the main mystery developed as well as the personal relationships intertwi...more
3.5 stars
At 30 pages I was thinking of moving on, and not much had changed at 50 pages, but I gave it 70 pages and that seemed to be the magic number as the book took off, never turning back.
Many reviewers complained that there's too much hockey in the book, but I found there to be no more than was needed to build the plot. I'm not a hockey fan, and it didn't turn me away at all.
This book was more like literature than mystery in genre going in deep with both character development as well as ho...more
This book won The Anthony Award for Best First Novel in 2010 and was a very well written story. There were many threads that were interwoven throughout in a story that took place over 30 years. I will definitely be on the watch for future books by Bryan Gruley. I gave it 4 ★★★★’s.
This is the debut novel by award-winning journalist and Chicago bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, Bryan Gruley. He has since gone on to write two more in the Starvation Lake series. A small town hockey coach goes missing but when his snowmobile turns up several years later far from where he was said to have died, questions need answers and editor and part-time hockey player Gus Carpenter will find them. Love of hockey pervades this book and you can feel the chill of the setting and the cr...more
Anyone who follows ice hockey or ever played will really enjoy this story...I enjoyed it from the standpoint of it being a well-constructed mystery. Soon to be a film, I hear.
This book was very engaging and real. The criminal subject matter was difficult for me to read about, but it's part of what makes the book what it is.
Jean Brown
I found the author's descriptions in this book vivid. The story was good and though I figured some things out there were also surprises. I feel that when an author is passionate about something it translates to the reader. In this book it was hockey. I knew reading it that the author must love hockey and later discovered from his bio that it is true. I just got so much insight into the playing of this game from the player's point of view. There are also some eccentric characters and I loved gett...more
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Bryan Gruley is the critically acclaimed author of Starvation Lake: A Mystery, The Hanging Tree, and the fortchoming sequel, The Skeleton Box.

The Hanging Tree is nominated for Anthony and Barry Awards to be awarded in September at the Bouchercon mystery/thriller convention. Writer/director John Gray has optioned the book for a feature film.

Starvation Lake, now in its eleventh printing, was nominat...more
More about Bryan Gruley...
The Hanging Tree (Starvation Lake, #2) The Skeleton Box (Starvation Lake, #3) Paper Losses: A Modern Epic of Greed and Betrayal at America's Two Largest Newspaper Companies Bryan Gruley's Starvation Lake Mystery Series 2-Book Boxed Set: Starvation Lake and The Hanging Tree Inherit the Dead

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“But on the night I changed his life, I sat with my feet up and a beer in my hand and decided that if something could make me feel this good for even one night, and it didn't hurt anyone who didn't deserve to be hurt, maybe it was something I could actually do, something I might actually be good at, something that might actually make somebody proud of me.” 2 likes
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