The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery is the third book in the series and opens in March 2000 with somebody breaking into houses in Starvation Lake on bingo nights. Despite the break-ins, the victims report that nothing has been taken. The motive as well as the identity or identities of those involved remain a mystery. Pine County Sheriff Dingus has no suspects and the town is on edge.


Then, apparently in the course of a break-in, a murder happens and for Gus his life will change forever.  The murder happened at his mother’s house and the victim was Phyllis Bontrager. Childhood best friend of his mother and a woman who was almost as much a mother to Gus growing up as his own. In the course of the investigation into the murder Gus learns things he just might have been better off never knowing.


This third novel from award winning author Bryan Gruley throws shock after shock at the reader all the way to the end. The author has referred to the three books as an “accidental trilogy” which reinforces the sense of a three book story arc being concluded here along with a possible finality to the series. One hopes not as the character of Gus has become a cherished friend to many readers.


Against a back drop of Gus being a reporter and editor of a small local paper and the decline of the newspaper business, across three powerful books Gus has had to deal with issues of an aging parent, pain and regret over the past and various actions, and having had to come back home to where it all began. Then there have been the crimes and mysteries that Gus has helped investigate in his role as reporter and editor of the local paper. None of that has really prepared him, or the reader for that matter, for the events in this book.


This is a very difficult book to sum up and explain the raw emotional power here in this work of fiction without giving up possible plot point spoilers. While it could be read as a stand-alone novel, the power of this book is more evident if you take the time to read the preceding novels, Starvation Lake: A Mystery and The Hanging Tree: A Starvation Lake Mystery. Clearly author Bryan Gruley has crafted another award winning novel and quite possibly his best book so far.


The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery

Bryan Gruley

Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster)

June 2012

ISBN# 978-1-4165-6366-2


336 Pages



I received an ARC of this novel as a very much appreciated gift from a fellow reader.



Kevin R. Tipple © 2012

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