The kidnapping of Danny Peters—the youngest member of the family that founded Bleak Harbor five generations ago, who is autistic—sets off a desperate search that has his parents worried their own secret dealings may have played a role their son's disappearance.
Who is victim and who is antagonist in this story? ... This reviewer prides herself on weeding out the 'villain of the piece' long before the author’s disclosure. Not this time. In Bleak Harbor, Bryan Gruley truly has an ace up his sleeve, for the person behind Danny’s abduction is, a surprise that will shock some while others will applaud its brilliance. It’s a truly exceptional suspense story with a unique protagonist who isn’t to be underestimated.
Gruley does many things well in this novel, and the first one is atmosphere. Readers can sense Bleak Harbor and know its history. They can see the water and festivalgoers, but most importantly, they can sense the tension ... The author maintains a perfect balance between passages of extreme emotional grit and violence and passages filled with bleak poetry that celebrate the space in which the story takes places. In that regard, this is one of those rare crime novels that, besides belonging to more than one genre, flirts with literary fiction without ever becoming pretentious ... Gruley is a talented storyteller at the top of his game, and this might just be his best effort so far. Taut, smart, entertaining, and packed with a variety of types of tension, Bleak Harbor is one of those books that make readers keep flipping pages until everything has been said and done.
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.