The Skeleton Box – Review

Skeleton Box-Bryan Gruley

The Skeleton Box

Author: Bryan Gruley

Pages: 336 pages

Publisher: Touchstone

Released: June 5th, 2012

Series: Starvation Lake Trilogy

Main Character(s): Gus Carpenter, former befallen hockey star for the River Rats; Bea Carpenter, Gus’ aging mother; Darlene Esper, Gus’ former girlfriend

Setting: the small town of Starvation Lake, Michigan,

Began: April 9th, 2017

Finished: April 16th, 2017

Goodreads Summary

Anthony and Barry Award-winning author Bryan Gruley returns with the third novel in his critically acclaimed Starvation Lake mystery series. A series of mysterious break-ins is plaguing the small town of Starvation Lake. Someone is slipping into the homes of elderly people when they’re out playing Bingo. Oddly, the intruders take nothing, despite evidence that they rifle through personal files.    

Worry turns to panic when a break-in leads to the death of a beloved citizen. Phyllis Botranger is found dead in the home of her best friend, Bea Carpenter, mother of Gus Carpenter. Bea, suffering from worsening dementia and under the influence of sleeping pills, remembers little of the break-in. Her son, editor of the local newspaper, must pursue a terrible story: the death of a woman he has known all his life, who also happens to be the mother of his ex-girlfriend, Darlene.     

With the help of Luke Whistler, an ex-Detroit Free Press reporter who came north looking for slower days and some old-fashioned newspaper work, Gus sets out to uncover the truth behind Mrs. B’s death and the “Bingo Night Break-Ins.” What he doesn’t know is that Whistler has his own agenda, and the secrets he’s determined to unearth—involving the long-ago killing of a nun—could forever change Gus’s perceptions about Starvation Lake and even his own family. 

What I Enjoyed

  1. So. Much. Literally. SO. MUCH.
  2. Finally, Gus Carpenter’s mother, Bea, was actually developed as a character other than static. Sympathy welled in my heart for her constantly throughout the course of the story, and we slightly learned things about Gus we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. In the other stories, we believe she is a simple small town mother with a perished husband. But in The Skeleton Box, we learn that her past is full of dark, deep hidden secrets that never came out long ago. There has been a sense of turmoil in her life ever since the events occurred, and I feel for her greatly. I think she is an amazing character, and if Bryan Gruley were to ever write another book, that she should be included largely.
  3. The mystery. The two mysteries included in this novel were past and present. The first is ultimately to find out what happened to Phyllis Botranger and find out who committed her homicide. But the second one, and my favorite, was about the murder of a nun that happened over forty years ago right there in Starvation Lake. I thought it was extremely well thought out and that Bryan wrote it with impeccable taste.
  4. Regarding the second mystery above. ^^^ I was surprised to find out at the end of the novel, that the mystery regarding the nun was actually based on a true story. How cool is that?! With that, I have now ordered the true crime book associated with it from my local library, and will hope to finish it sometime soon for my first true crime book review!
  5. The return of Joanie! She was a reporter for the Pine County newspaper in the first novel, and she was slightly more developed within this story. I really wanted her and Gus to get together, but that wasn’t bound to happen, as he is still utterly hung up on Darlene. Burns my darn buns… But whatever.
  6. Gus Carpenter. Forever and always.
  7. Just the way he wrote this novel. Everything was coherent and fluid, unlike the previous novel. I couldn’t put it down, quite honestly. I read over half of it in one sitting, if that tells you anything.
  8. The atmosphere wasn’t there for me in the second novel, but was in the first, and made yet another reappearance for me in the third. I really felt like I was in a Michigan winter once again.
  9. All of the characters to me felt really realistic, not forced whatsoever, and I really felt like everyone interacted together well.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. The annoying freaking culprits. BYEEEE! (You’ll just have to read to find out, whoops.)
  2. I literally loved this book so much, though. There was really nothing I can critique, personally. This is by far the BEST book in the Starvation Lake Trilogy.


Love, love, love, love, LOVE. This was by and by my favorite book of the entire trilogy. If you were going to read one book in this trilogy, and none else, I would most definitely recommend reading this one. It was the one out of the three that was very difficult for me to put down, and I think this mystery was the most enthralling out of all of them. Eloquently written, wonderful characters that will stick with me forever, and an atmosphere that can’t compete. My favorite thing about this novel was the mystery regarding the murder of the nun.




1416563660 (ISBN13: 9781416563662) 

Buy it at:

Barnes and Noble



Stay sleuthy,





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