Bleak Harborby Published 01 Dec 2018
|Publisher||Thomas & Mercer|
Their son is gone. Deep down, they think they’re to blame.
Summertime in Bleak Harbor means tourists, overpriced restaurants, and the Dragonfly Festival. One day before the much-awaited and equally chaotic celebration, Danny Peters, the youngest member of the family that founded the town five generations ago, disappears.
When Danny’s mother, Carey, and stepfather, Pete, receive a photo of their brilliant, autistic, and socially withdrawn son tied to a chair, they fear the worst. But there’s also more to the story. Someone is sending them ominous texts and emails filled with information no one else should have. Could the secrets they’ve kept hidden—even from one another—have led to Danny’s abduction?
As pressure from the kidnapper mounts, Carey and Pete must face their own ugly mistakes to find their son before he’s taken from them forever.
Bleak Harbor Reviews
Bleak Harbor is the epitome of a summer town, where wealthy families come to vacation and tourists are attracted to their unique Dragonfly Festival. The town is named after the Bleak family, who’s matriarch, Serenity, lives in a gated mansion in town, while her children choose to be estranged. Carey Peters is the daughter the daughter of Serenity. Along with her husband, Pete, and son, Danny, the Peters family have just returned to live in Bleak Harbor. They live a relatively quiet life here. Carey is still commuting to her old job in Chicago. Pete is running a marijuana dispensary. And Danny is trying to find a place to fit in.
One day while Carey is at work and Pete is nursing his business concerns over alcohol, Danny goes missing. Carey and Pete instantly fear the worst after receiving a photo of Danny tied to a chair, along with a ransom request. Danny is a brilliant boy, but Carey and Pete worry more than typical parents over the state of their son’s well-being in this kidnapping situation, as he is autistic and extremely socially withdrawn. Soon texts and emails come pouring into the couple revealing secrets they would rather leave buried. Who abducted Danny? How do they know so much about their private lives? Was Danny kidnapped because of something Carey or Pete did?
When Bryan Gruley reached out to be about reviewing his novel I instantly found the plot interesting and accepted. After reading this book, I am so happy Gruley reached out to me! BLEAK HARBOR was a book I thought I would enjoy going into it and it ended up being such a surprising, twisty ride of so much more than I was expecting.
BLEAK HARBOR on the surface is the story of a kidnapped teenage son, Danny, who happens to have autism, being held for ransom by an unknown person. The parents of Danny have much more happening in their lives than meets the surface and the secrets they are hiding leave both of them wondering if their actions lead to the abduction. Get ready for some serious drama! Carey and Pete are all over the place with their pasts, presents, and the next moves they choose to make during the abduction. I couldn’t stop second guessing whether or not I liked either parent and certainly didn’t trust what they were revealing about themselves.
The best part of this book is that there are actually a lot more characters involved in the plot than you initially go into the book thinking there will be. Gruley casts these characters each with their own unique backstory that truly helps the reader become more connected to them. While they may not be the main focus of the book, each secondary character has an important role or function within the story and the end result. While we’re talking end results...I loved the ending of BLEAK HARBOR! I definitely still have some questions for several characters and am curious about where their lives will take them, but overall I was satisfied with the way things wrapped up. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller that will really make you think and contemplate character’s actions I highly recommend giving BLEAK HARBOR a shot!
While rating this on Goodreads I realized there is going to be a second book in the series (currently slated for 2020), but then also saw a comment from Gruley saying it won’t focus on advancing this story. I can definitely see this town having more secrets up its sleeve, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next installment.
I was offered an advance copy of "Bleak Harbor" in exchange for a review. I agreed on the strength of the book's description, though I did not know the author, Bryan Gruley.
"Bleak Harbor" is a tightly-plotted mystery set in a small Michigan town, and you know what they say about small towns ... there's more going on beneath their placid surfaces than anyone will ever know (I don't know Michigan and am not qualified to say whether Gruley captures some of its essence, but his descriptions have the feel of authenticity).
“If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.” Gruley clearly takes Chekhov to heart, wasting not a single word on irrelevant detail. Every house, street, dock, and bar in Bleak Harbor, no matter how casually inserted into an opening chapter, is sure to come back into play later. More importantly, the ever-expanding cast of characters (just three to start with, but by the end a couple of dozen) are pistols hanging on the wall as well, with secrets, hidden motivations, and surprises in store.
As each new plot development unfolds, the mystery deepens, the list of possible culprits expands, and the suspense increases. I was pulled along by a string of surprising (because unexpected) revelations, but never once felt played. Even though the mystery is complex and multi-layered, it doesn't feel contrived. The characters' flaws make them more human. Are some details of the mystery stretches? Sure (Danny remaining undiscovered in the attic of an abandoned house despite searchers combing through it multiple times, for example), but in general the twists and turns Gruley throws at us are believable. At the end, over the course of three or four very short chapters, Gruley ties up loose ends in a very satisfactory manner.
One more thing: my advance copy is labeled an "uncorrected proof." I didn't see anything that needed correcting. No typos, no mistakes. I wish my uncorrected proofs were half as good.
I don't always say this about authors who are new to me, but now that I know Bryan Gruley, I plan to read his earlier work.
Bleak Harbor marks the return of Bryan Gruley, and not a moment too soon. I was a big fan of his Starvation Lake trilogy, but the last book in that series, The Skeleton Box, appeared in 2012, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his next book ever since. It turns out, though, that the wait was well worth it. Bleak Harbor is a fast-paced, taut thriller that grabs the reader from the opening lines and refuses to let go until the final scenes have played out in the wake of a great climax.
At the center of the book is a troubled family living in Bleak Harbor, Michigan, a small town where the highlight of the summer tourist season is the annual Dragonfly Festival. Carey Peters, the wife and mother, is descended from the town’s founder. Her mother, Serenity Bleak, lives in a huge home overlooking the town, isolated from the rest of the residents, both geographically and economically. The Bleaks made a huge fortune from their various enterprises in the town, but the rest of the citizens have not done nearly as well, and many of them are experiencing hard times as several of the Bleaks’ businesses have closed, leaving their former employees high and dry. Carey is employed by a firm in Chicago and commutes back and forth to Bleak Harbor two or three times a week to see her family. She is estranged from her mother who has cut Carey out of her will.
Carey’s husband, Pete Peters, was once a high-flying commodities trader in Chicago, but he hit a bad streak and lost his job. He convinced Carey to move back to Bleak Harbor where he has opened a medical marijuana shop and is struggling to get the business up and running. Both Carey and Pete have dark secrets that they are hiding from each other, and their relationship is strained for a variety of reasons.
Carey’s son—Pete’s stepson—is fifteen-year-old Danny. Danny is on the autism spectrum and, while brilliant in some respects, can also be a “difficult” child. One thing that Carey and Pete do agree on is that they both love Danny very much. Danny and Pete have an excellent relationship, centered on fishing and other activities that they do together.
The book opens on the eve of Danny’s sixteenth birthday as the annual Dragonfly Festival is about to begin. Pete arrives home expecting to take Danny fishing. He finds that Danny has prepared the sandwiches and drinks they will be taking with them, but the boy himself is nowhere to be found. Shortly thereafter, Pete receives a photo of Danny bound to a chair with what appears to be a bruise on his cheek. Accompanying the photo is a demand for a huge ransom and with that, the book is off and running.
The plot is intricately designed; the characters, even the minor ones, are sharply drawn, and the tension is palpable throughout as Carey and Pete and a variety of law enforcement officials work to save Danny from a particularly fiendish and clever antagonist. In particular, as he demonstrated in the Starvation Lake series, Gruley excels at describing life in a small town like Bleak Harbor, where all sorts of secrets and machinations are at work beneath the surface. The setting is expertly rendered and becomes a character in and of itself. All in all, this is a very entertaining novel and the reader leaves the book very much hoping that it will not be another six years before we hear from Bryan Gruley again. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5.
Exciting and gripping mystery from Gruley, his first since he completed the Starvation Lake trilogy in 2012. The story of the kidnapping of a 15-year old autistic boy and the unraveling of the secret and troubled lives of those involved moves at a very rapid pace. The characters are multi-dimensional and the plot full of enough twists to keep you hooked from beginning to end, wondering what may be revealed next. The ending does not disappoint and leaves you hoping that Gruley is not finished with these characters and town. A bit implausible at times but that is a minor quibble. Eagerly looking forward to his next one, which hopefully won't take another six years. 4-4.5 stars. Highly recommended.
Manipulation Creates Mayhem
Excessive manipulation? Kidnapping? Disappearance combined with threats?
What lengths will a person go to in order to extort money? And why? The motives will surprise you in Bryan Gruley newest book, Bleak Harbor.
When 16-year-old Danny (not Daniel) disappears, and a picture of him tied to a chair turns up on the household computers, his parents are horrified. Baffled by the requests for money they obsess about getting the ransom. They can’t go to Danny’s wealthy grandmother, who dislikes the boy because he is emotionally immature and obsessive, as children with autism often are. Poor Danny still grieves for his dog, Paddle, who was put down months earlier.
His parents, a dad who sells legal pot and a mom who is the daughter of the manipulative woman, are drowning in guilt about Danny’s problems. In addition the mom, Carey, has a guilty secret of her own. She’s been seduced and by the less-than-honest man she works for. Will this come out when the perpetrator requests ransom? Who is behind this plot, and will any of it work? And what is really wrong with Danny’s grandmother, a descendant of the town’s founding fathers who has money to burn?
Author Bryan Gruley is a life-long journalist who is proud to have shared in the Putlitzer Prize awarded to the staff of the Wall Street Journal for their coverage of the 9-11 attacks in New York City. His complex mystery is full of shady characters and a twisted yearning to be noticed and accepted. There are lots of characters but this is a page-turner and worth the time of those who have a family member who has autism as well as those who love a thriller. As my husband would say, “Follow the dollar,” but there is a lot more here.