Friday, November 26, 2010

Review - The Hanging Tree by Bryan Gruley

The Hanging Tree
Written by: Bryan Gruley
Rated: Very Good (****)
Review by: Lisa Haselton

Gus Carpenter loves being a journalist, even if it’s not the easiest or most glamorous job in the world. He didn’t think his life would bring him back to Starvation Lake or to living with his mom, but playing hockey, having a girlfriend, and being involved with news keeps him moving forward.

Gracie McBride is found hanging high up in “the hanging tree.” It appears to be suicide, but Gus and his girlfriend, Sheriff’s Deputy Darlene Esper know Gracie seemed to be getting her life on track. She even had a boyfriend, of sorts. Was someone else to blame? Because of their jobs, Gus and Darlene can’t discuss what they each discover, so tension builds between them. And it doesn’t help that Darlene’s estranged husband is back in town. It sure makes conversation topics limited between the pair.

Author Bryan Gruley is passionate about his writing and he loves to write about a few of his passions: hockey, northern Michigan, and newspapers. He weaves what he knows within the chilly (it’s winter) fictional town of Starvation Lake. The multi-faceted characters hold their own on the page. What surprised me most with the writing was how the town and the game of hockey were also characters. I can’t imagine this story taking place in summertime Arizona with swimming as the sport. It would be all wrong. Gruley knows just how to develop hockey as a character as he does the speaking characters.

Gruley is the critically acclaimed author of Starvation Lake: A Mystery, and the sequel, The Hanging Tree. He’s also the author of the prize-winning non-fiction book, Paper Losses: A Modern Epic of Greed and Betrayal at America’s Two Largest Newspaper Companies. Secretly, though, he would love to be compared favorably to Detroit Red Wings stars Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk. He’s been playing hockey since he was a boy growing up in Detroit. He’s also an amateur musician who sings, plays guitar, and composes his own songs.

The Hanging Tree held my interest all the way through. I enjoyed learning some things about hockey without needing to be bundled up for warmth on the sidelines of a rink. If you enjoy a good thrill ride, hang on when you open this book. I’ve read other books with a sport focus and always felt separated from the story when a game was described on the page. Not so with The Hanging Tree. It’s a great read.

Title: The Hanging Tree
Author: Bryan Gruley
Publisher: Touchstone
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6364-8
Pages: 336
Price: $15.00

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