Tag Archives: Bryan Gruley

‘Bleak Harbor,’ by Bryan Gruley

The Peters family is more dysfunctional in sum than any of its individual member knows.

Carley Bleak Peters, the central character in Bleak Harbor, is a descendant of the man who founded the upscale town of Bleak Harbor, Michigan. She is estranged, however, from her widowed mother, and has been cut out of her will. She was working in Chicago before her husband moved them back to Bleak Harbor, and she does not like commuting. It limits her time with her beloved son Danny, born of a fling with a drug dealer 15 years ago. But she has a plan. She will use documents she’s stolen to blackmail her boss, who pressured her into sex. This will allow her to flee Bleak Harbor with Danny.

Her husband, Danny’s stepfather, Pete Peters, is a nice guy, but not one of life’s winners. Formerly a successful commodities trader in Chicago, his career languished when he had to switch to online trading. Fired from his job, he moved to Bleak Harbor to open a medical marijuana shop – a sure-fire goldmine, he thought. Only he’s found that the only way to compete wtih the illicit market is to buy his stock from very bad people.

Fifteen-year-old Danny Peters is “on the autism scale.” He is handsome and intelligent, but does not relate well to people. His passions are dragonflies, perch (the fish), and one particular poem by Wallace Stevens. Neither of his parents is sure how much he understands about their situation.

When Danny is kidnapped, and cryptic text messages come to his parents demanding an odd ransom amount, Carley and Pete each believe it has to do with their own sins coming home to roost. They will be pushed to their personal limits, sometimes cooperating with the police and sometimes going behind their backs, to satisfy the demands of a bizarre kidnapper who seems determined to bring some of the Bleak family’s old skeletons to light.

Bleak Harbor was a departure for me, a different kind of thriller. I think it will be surprising to a lot of readers. The plot seems to me (I may just be uninformed) a pretty original one. I did guess the kidnapper’s identity a little ahead of schedule, but it was pretty surprising, and the surprise was well set up.

I’m not entirely sure what the theme of Bleak Harbor was, to be honest, but it kept my interest and kept me turning pages. Recommended, with minor cautions for language.