“Bryan Gruley is a gifted writer, and inThe Skeleton Box he’s turned his gifts to the secrets and lies which ultimately rip apart Starvation Lake. Gus Carpenter, editor of a local paper on its last legs, finds himself in the center of a murder inquiry when his mother’s best friend is killed – and his mother becomes a prime suspect. Gruley writes elegiacally about small town America, but his deepest love is for its newspaper.”

- Sara Paretsky, New York Times bestselling author

Now Available In Paperback!


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 Bontrager 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.” The secrets he’s determined to unearth could forever change Gus’s perceptions about Starvation Lake and even his own family.

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Praise for The Skeleton Box

"Gruley's best to date ... emotionally wrenching and filled with more twists and turns than the little  town's winding, often snow-choked roads."

- Associated Press

"Haunting ... Better late than never if you haven't started reading or recommending Gruley's outstanding trilogy. Consider crossover reading for Richard Russo fans."

- Library Journal

"Starvation Lake abides, and so do the hardy, gritty, sometimes hapless, and thoroughly memorable denizens of this wonderfully imagined small town."

- Booklist

"Bryan Gruley has a way of working magic into a small town mystery and Skeleton Box is further proof.  Gruley is a rising star of the genre.”

- Crimespree Magazine

"A polished mystery that evokes life in a small town awash in tension. The characters are fully imagined, drawing the reader into their lives and situations."

- RT Book Reviews

"Well worth reading and enriches the series as it continues to grow."

- Suspense Magazine

"Bracing ... complex ... There's no mistaking Gruley's fierce love for his frigid hamlet."

- Kirkus Reviews

"A very difficult book to sum up and explain the raw emotional power without giving up possible plot point spoilers. Gruley has crafted another award winning novel and quite possibly his best book so far."

- Kevin's Corner

"Keeps the reader turning pages well past lights out."

-Hour Detroit

"His characters and writing just keep getting better. Another fun and satisfying mystery."

- Monarch Book Reviews

"Cold Case Files meets Law & Order, Gruley dredges up an old crime with the help of a new one and follows the mystery from modern day back to mid-century with flair like no other."

"THE SKELETON BOX - and its predecessors - are cerebral crime novels. Gruley takes his readers inside the minds of his characters, poking and prodding. This approach results in readers connecting with the characters and examining their own thoughts, motivations, emotions and...skeleton boxes."

-Jen's Book Thoughts

What the Booksellers are Saying

"One of my favorite things about selling books is watching an author grow not just career-wise, but grow as a writer.  Each book of Gruley’s is better than the last, and this third in his Gus Carpenter series really hits it out of the park...A wonderfully told story and a moving novel."

- Robin Agnew, Aunt Agatha's Bookstore

"Be prepared for yet another great story...So much goes on in this one, and Gruley's deft writing skills really shine because your attention never drops. This guy can really write!"

- Dan Radovich, Barnes & Noble in Vernon Hills, IL

"What I think helps to differentiate Bryan's writing from many others are his ability to create characters that the reader really cares about."

- Arlene Lynes, Reading Between the Lynes Bookstore

"As good as his first two novels were, this one moves to a whole different level ... a rich and addictive fictional stew.  Gruley has a sneaky and charming way of drawing the reader into the lives of his characters so that they become real and we care deeply about them."

- Steve "Shadow" Schwartz, Poisoned Pen Bookstore