Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BLEAK HARBOR by Bryan Gruley

   Carey Bleak Peters should be the Princess of Bleak Harbor, Michigan. The City, after all, was founded by her family during the boon of the steel industry—and made them rich, wealth that continued beyond the closing of the steel and timber mills and shipping in the harbor as Bleak Harbor transformed into a summer vacation destination for the wealthy. But Carey’s mother, Serenity Bleak, sole heir of the fortune estimated to be worth several hundred million dollars, has other plans. And they don’t include Carey, her autistic son Danny, or her brother Jonah, the mayor of Bleak Harbor. When Danny is kidnapped and held for an ever increasing multi-million-dollar ransom, there is no shortage of suspects with strong motives: Danny’s biological father, an ex-con with a violent history; his step-father, a struggling medical marijuana dealer with business problems of his own; his mother, looking for her share of the Bleak fortune; Carey’s boss, looking for leverage against her to protect his business. As the search for Danny advances, it seems like every lead opens a door on a new suspect, and everyone has something to hide. Even the police and FBI agents investigating the crime and looking for the missing boy have their own agendas, and finding Danny seems secondary to them. 

     Bryan Gruley has created in Danny a complex boy with interests that provide meaning to the book. In contemplating Danny’s near obsession with a poem by Wallace Stevens, Carey remembers:

     And he would tell her that the palm in the opening line, the one Carey mistook for a hand instead of the tree it was, “is forever out of reach.” 
    She always heard his declaration as defeatist, as if Danny had given up on whatever dreams swirled in his mind. It crushed her. Now, his observation strikes her as realistic, mature, even liberating. Danny wasn’t saying people couldn’t have what they yearned for. He was saying that the yearning would never cease, no matter what was gained or gathered. It was enough to embrace the yearning, then let it go. She wishes she’d listened harder. 

     Danny has a similar obsession with dragonflies and is known to stand and watch them for hours, seeming to see then when others can’t. He wonders, “whether any of the people…actually know what the dragonfly is about, how its flitting beauty, wings aglint in sun, masks the bloodless killer within. Probably not.” 
     In a book full of secrets and masked motives, even the victim has a side that is underestimated. 

    Bleak Harbor is a thriller that increases the pressure with every chapter; like pealing layers of an onion it slowly exposes the complex crime--and possible complicity of each character--with every page turn. 
Gruley, Bryan. Bleak Harbor, Thomas & Mercer, December 1, 2018. 
ISBN 978-1503904682

A copy of Bleak Harbor was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher. No compensation was provided for this review. 

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