A Book Spy Review: ‘Bleak Harbor’ by Bryan Gruley


Bleak HarborStepping away from his Starvation Lake series, Bryan Gruley returns to a familiar setting to explore a tragic kidnapping in Bleak Harbor, Michigan. 

When summer finally rolls around in this small Michigan town, It’s all about the Dragonfly Festival for residents, who are used to the flux of tourists and activity that come with it. Danny Peters is no exception. An autistic teen who has an interest in dragonflies, summer is always his favorite time of the year. But this time around, Danny innocently wanders away from his mom and step-father after a classic, “Hey kid, you want a piece of candy?” scenario that parents are always warned about. 

In the aftermath of his disappearance, Pete and Carey Peters’ world is once again rocked when the kidnapper finally makes their demands known, asking for a large sum of money. More specifically, the request is for $5.145 million, which may or may not be an arbitrary number. Either way, both Pete–who essentially runs a legal pot shop with some shady dealings on the side–and Carey–an executive assistant who, after an affair with her boss, uncovered his own illegal activity and is currently in the process of extorting him for $10 million–scramble to raise the money to get their son back. Both turn to others for help, all the while questioning if their own actions have somehow led to the kidnapping, only to discover that everyone seems to have their own agenda. That list includes Danny’s biological father, an ex-con with questionable motives. 

Circumventing the authorities, Pete and Carey frantically try to get their son back. But as the mystery surrounding his disappearance begins to unravel, more questions are raised, leading to a shocking conclusion with a killer twist. 

Bryan Gruley is a terrific writer, and his wordplay and scenic descriptions make up for a few minor missteps here. While not his fastest-paced thriller to date, early portions of Bleak Harbor read as if the characters are slightly underdeveloped. In reality, that may have more to do with Gruley disguising their pasts and current situations to hide their true motives, allowing for some misdirection and suspense later on. The other issue is that not every reader will buy the story’s twist, which is jarring but also walks the line of implausible. Still, there’s a lot to like here, and as a Michigan native born and raised, Gruley definitely nails the setting and brings Bleak Harbor right to life on the page. 

With nonstop twists and suspense throughout, Bleak Harbor is another solid offering from Bryan Gruley, who knows how to surprise readers and keep them on the edge of their seats.

Book Details

Pages: 378 (Paperback)
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer 
Release Date: December 1, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0/10




Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children

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