The Hanging Tree – Review

  The Hanging Tree

Author: Bryan Gruley

Pages: 314 pages

Publisher: Touchstone

Release Date: August 3rd, 2010

Series: Starvation Lake Trilogy

Main Character(s): Gus Carpenter, former befallen hockey star for the River Rats and recovering journalist; Darlene Esper, former girlfriend of Gus.

Setting: the small town of Starvation Lake, Michigan, 1999

Began: March 20th, 2017

Finished: April 9th, 2017

Goodreads Summary

When Gracie McBride, the wild girl who had left town eighteen years earlier, is found dead in an apparent suicide shortly after her homecoming, it sends shock waves through her native Starvation Lake. Gus Carpenter, executive editor of the Pine County Pilot, sets out to solve the mystery with the help of his old flame and now girlfriend, Pine County sheriff deputy Darlene Esper. As Gus and Darlene investigate, they can’t help but question if Gracie’s troubled life really ended in suicide or if the suspicious crime-scene evidence adds up to murder.

But in such a small town it’s impossible to be an impartial investigator Gracie was Gus’s second cousin; Darlene’s best friend; and the lover of Gus’ oldest pal, Soupy Campbell. Yet with all the bad blood between Gus and Gracie over the years, Gus is easily distracted by other problems. His employer is trying to push him out, the locals are annoyed that his stories have halted construction on a new hockey rink, and Darlene’s estranged husband has returned to reclaim his wife.

When Gus tries to retrace Gracie’s steps to discover what happened to her in the eighteen years she was away from Starvation Lake, he’s forced to return to Detroit, the scene of his humiliating past. And though he’s determined to find out what drove Gracie back home, Gus is unprepared for the terrible secrets he uncovers.

The second book in Bryan Gruley’s irresistible Starvation Lake series, The Hanging Tree is a compelling story about family and friendship, sex and violence, and the failure of love to make everything right. 

What I Enjoyed
  • Personally, I believe the sequel had a quality that the first Starvation Lake novel lacked. Perhaps I felt more attached and connected to the characters because I had already gotten to know them within the first, but something just felt different and I enjoyed it more!
  • The character development of Gus Carpenter greatened, in my opinion, more than it did in the first book, and I absolutely LOVE Gus so this was a huge plus for me.
  • Darlene was mentioned and developed within this book when she was barely touched upon in Starvation Lake, and I loved that Bryan did this. (But I will add to this comment in the latter column).
  • Overall, the storyline was well-developed and played out well.
  • Philo. I just like him. He sounds adorably cute and nerdy.
  • What I Didn’t Like
  • Even though Bryan Gruley developed Darlene’s character more within this novel, I have come to find out that I do not really care for her character. I have a huge spot in my heart for Gus, and the fact that she constantly blows him off in this story, even though they are technically back together, really burns my buns. It makes me think that even with their deep past together, that she doesn’t deserve him. I was tolerating her until her husband/ex-husband returned, and then she started getting downright annoying.
  • Where. The. Hell. Did. Gracie. McBride. Come. From?!?! She literally wasn’t mentioned once as even his cousin in the first book, and she comes into this one like a blazing fire. I didn’t really care for that transition, and I didn’t really understand why there wasn’t even a small mention of her in Starvation Lake. Even though she wasn’t close to Gus, it seems she was very, very close to his mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
  • Just like the first, sometimes there were parts that left me feeling extremely detached.
  • Wrap-Up

    All in all, I actually care for this novel less than the first one. Character development was there, along with the signature atmosphere Bryan Gruley brings in his other books, but something was lacking my interest that I couldn’t quite shake. I did enjoy the storyline, but some parts were confusing, and didn’t seem to add up. My favorite thing about this novel was still, Gus Carpenter.


    Literary Awards:

    • Barry Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original (2011)
    • Anthony Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original (2011)

    1416563644 (ISBN13: 9781416563648)

    Buy it at: Barnes and Noble Amazon Thriftbooks Stay sleuthy, Clue

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