The inexplicable murder of his mother’s dearest friend sends Upper Michigan journalist Gus Carpenter, of the dying Pine County Pilot, back for another bracing trip to his town’s endlessly sordid past.
Whoever the Bingo Night Burglar is, he’s pulled off his first four jobs with a minimum of fuss: nobody harmed, nothing even stolen. But the break-in at the home of Gus’ mother, Beatrice, leaves her next-door neighbor and old friend Phyllis Bontrager dead. Who would kill the inoffensive Mrs. B, who was on the scene only to stay with her failing friend? Mrs. B’s mysterious last non-word, “Nye-less,” sets Gus on the trail of a missing nun and a monstrous coverup 50 years old—a coverup that’s been so successful for so long that he, his ex-girlfriend Darlene Esper and Pilot reporter Luke Whistler have to go several rounds with interloping born-again troublemaker Wayland Breck, Detroit PR fixer Regis Repelmaus and golfing cleric Father Tim Reilly before the case comes to a head in a choleric judge’s chambers. Nor will they get much help from Pine County Sheriff Dingus Aho, who has to deal with an electoral challenge from his nasty little deputy Frank D’Alessio. Just in case all these conflicts aren’t enough, Gruley (The Hanging Tree, 2010, etc.) also showcases the River Rats, the teen hockey team Gus coaches, battling to go all the way to the state championship Gus blew himself when he let through the winning overtime goal 20 years earlier.
Complex but lumpy, perhaps because of the true-crime roots a closing note reveals. But there’s no mistaking Gruley’s fierce love for his frigid hamlet.