The Body in the Shoe Tree
The Hanging Tree
By Bryan Gruley
Simon and Schuster - $15
By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
I challenge you to read Bryan Gruleys The Hanging Tree and then drive by the shoe tree on US 131 north of Kalkaska and not see a body hanging among the highest branches. As I drove passed the tree recently, there she was, Gruleys Gracie McBride, swinging amid the sneakers and flip-flops. A truly sad and riveting image to begin a book.
In this second in Gruleys Starvation Lake mystery series, Gus Carpenter, executive editor of the Starvation Lake Village newspaper, the Pine Country Pilot, is not only in trouble over negative stories that could cost the town a new hockey rink, but deeply involved in the mystery surrounding Gracies death. The verdict is suicide.
Gracie McBride used to live, over 20 years before, at Gus home. His mother, a sweet and caring woman, had taken the young girl in when her own mother was too involved with yet another man to look out for her own daughter. The thing is, Gus never really got along with Gracie and now there is, perhaps, a little guilt involved as Gus watches Gracies body swing high in the snow-covered branches. His married lover, a sheriffs deputy, has to shut him out of the investigation or face losing her job. His newspaper has been pressuring him to tame his hockey rink stories down but Gus isnt the kind of man who can turn his back on truth.
Quickly the people of Starvation Lake begin shouting foul over the verdict of suicide. Even Gus mom, who is growing older and having lapses of memory, still insists Gracie, a troubled girl to be sure, would never take her own life. Though she hadnt seen her in the 18 years shes been gone from town, his mother knows secrets that will eventually lead Gus to some hard places buried deep within the fabric of the town.