If Richard Russo, one of the grand chroniclers of the intricacies of small-town American life, decided to write crime fiction, he might produce something like Bryan Gruley’s The Hanging Tree … with portraits of complex, compelling people doing their best, and worst, to make their ways in the world in down-sinking times.
The real maturity … is Gruley’s use of emotional power – his depiction of Gracie and Gus and their relationship to the people around them, including Gus’ mother, is beautifully done. The end of the book made me cry, which for me is high praise. You won’t forget Gracie McBride anytime soon yourself.
Gruley does it again in this second Starvation Lake mystery. With his journalist’s eye for detail, he transports the readers to small town, hockey-obsessed northern Michigan, where they experience a lifestyle and come to know the inhabitants fully. The characters have even more pull this time around, and the pacing is ‘keep-you-up-too-late’ perfect!
Gruley’s absorbing follow-up to Starvation Lake … vividly evokes the frigid Michigan winters and the even chillier atmosphere of an insular community determined to keep its secrets.
The Hanging Tree is even better than Gruley’s Starvation Lake … richer and deeper and more emotionally satisfying, and the town is described with a defter, more assured hand.