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Starvation Lake

(Starvation Lake Mystery #1)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,708 ratings  ·  443 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 th ...more
Paperback, 370 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Gallery Books
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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,708 ratings  ·  443 reviews

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4,5 stars

A very good written mystery. No wonder, this book was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America, and won the Anthony, Barry and Strand Awards.

Multi layered plot, excellent 1st person POV, unexpected turns, great portrayed characters, atmospheric and pretty enthralling mystery.
You don't need to be an ice hockey expert to enjoy it, but if you like or at least understand how to play ice hockey, it could be helpful.

Miss Kim
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, keeper
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
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
A dnf for me, but I read more than halfway so giving it two stars.

Gus Carpenter, young reporter, goes home after some kind of dust-up at a big city newspaper. He's now working for a smaller paper in said home town. And no, we aren't told what that's all about for the longest time. (I got tired of waiting to find out what Gus did or didn't do, or who he upset or killed or whatever the heck happened. When we are finally told what it was all about, I really didn't care.)

As for the main story line:
Mar 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009-reads, arc
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
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
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good first book in a series, a well drawn mystery, with hockey (!), journalism, and interesting characters. I'll read another!
Dara S.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you are a hockey fan, this book is for you.
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
Nov 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Dec 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
Sep 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Fredrick Danysh
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Gus played hockey in Starvation Lake's youth league. After his failure as a reporter in Detroit he gets a job at the Starvation Lake Pilot as assistant editor. After the snowmobile of a hockey coach who has been missing for ten years washes up on the wrong lake, he and one of his reporters investigate uncovering hidden secrets and unwanted facts about the coach and the town.
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.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
A well crafted mystery, and I thoroughly enjoyed the northern Michigan setting.
Cynthia Dawson
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75 rounded up. Starvation Lake is well crafted, atmospheric, suspenseful, and is REALLY thorough on the subject of Hockey. It's like Fargo, as in there is snow everywhere, it's bleak, and moves a high speed with multiple characters influencing the outcome.

At the begining of Starvation Lake I quickly picked up on a possible motivation for what popped off this whole thing. I kept thinking, "Oh dont be THAT! It's too obvious!". But, then it started looking like it wasn't THAT and I was like, "Sw
Scott Rhee
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. I picked up the book because I saw The Hanging Tree, which looked interesting. Then I saw it was the second in the series, so hunted down the first one. This book was compared to Denis Lehane, one of my favorites, and had a quote from Harlan Coben- my favorite thriller writer- on the cover. Sorry to say, it was a let down.

The book takes place in northern MI, with some back story in Detroit. My stomping grounds, I should love it, right? This writer has a bad habit of going off on tang
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Lexi Kate
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midwest, mystery
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.
As a lifelong Michigan resident, I was able to immediately pinpoint the area this book is based in. As a long time hockey fan, I figured out the plot within 20 pages, and had no trouble identifying the incident(s) it was based on. No matter. This was an entertaining book, and an excellent first effort. Not up to snuff with my favorite Michigan series written by Steve Hamilton, but still pretty darn good.
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Bryan Gruley is back. BLEAK HARBOR, his new standalone, will be published December 1 by Thomas & Mercer. It’s the story of the kidnapping of an autistic teenage boy whose parents have secrets that may have put him in danger.

Gillian Flynn says Bleak Harbor is “an electric bolt of suspense, packed with twists and surprises,” and “a masterful follow-up to his Starvation Lake trilogy.” Steve Hamil

Other books in the series

Starvation Lake Mystery (3 books)
  • The Hanging Tree
  • The Skeleton Box (Starvation Lake, #3)
“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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