The Skeleton Box

A Starvation Lake Mystery

The Skeleton Box

The third novel in the award-winning Starvation Lake series finds Gus Carpenter faced with a new case that reveals a haunting secret from his own family’s past.

Mysterious break-ins are plaguing the small town of Starvation Lake. While elderly residents are out playing bingo, someone is slipping into their homes to rifle through financial and personal files. The “Bingo Night Burglaries” leave the entire town uneasy.

When a break-in escalates to murder, Gus Carpenter, editor of the Pine County Pilot, is forced to investigate the most difficult story of his life. Not only is the victim his ex-girlfriend Darlene’s mother, but her body was found in the home of Bea Carpenter—Gus’s mother. Suffering from worsening dementia, Bea remembers little of the break-in.

Gus sets out to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when the story leads him to a lockbox his mother has kept secret for years, Gus doesn’t realize that its contents could forever change his perception of Starvation Lake, his family, and the value of the truth.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451650303 | 
  • June 2013
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Skeleton Box includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Bryan Gruley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The Skeleton Box recounts the story of a murder in the small town of Starvation Lake, Michigan—a murder that journalist Gus Carpenter is determined to solve. There is a lot at stake for Gus: the victim—Phyllis Bontrager—is the mother of his ex-girlfriend Darlene, the best friend of his own mother, Bea Carpenter, and was found dead in Bea’s house after an attempted break-in turned sour. With the help of Luke Whistler, a former Detroit Free Press reporter, Gus sets out to uncover the truth behind Mrs. B’s death and the break-ins plaguing Starvation Lake. But what he doesn't realize is his new protégé, Luke, has his own agenda, one that circles back to buried secrets that may forever change Gus's assumptions about his own family.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. The prologue to The Skeleton Box begins: “Father, forgive me, for I have sinned…̶ see more

More Books from this Author

Bryan Gruley's Starvation Lake Mystery Series 2-Book Boxed Set
The Hanging Tree
Starvation Lake

About the Author

Bryan Gruley
Photo Credit: Sigrid Estrada

Bryan Gruley

Bryan Gruley is reporter at large for Bloomberg News and the former Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal. He has won the Anthony, Barry, and Strand Awards and was nominated for an Edgar Award for best first novel. He lives with his wife in Chicago. Visit