Gruber, Michael 1940-
Gruber, Michael 1940-
Home—Seattle, WA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Morrow, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
Writer. Worked as a marine biologist, and cook; policy speechwriter, c. 1970s.
Tropic of Night, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Valley of Bones, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
The Witch's Boy (young-adult novel), HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2005.
Night of the Jaguar, Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author (uncredited) of "Butch Karp" series by Robert K. Tanenbaum.
Valley of Bones was adapted for audio by BBC/Sound Library, 2005; The Witch's Boy was adapted for audio by HarperAudio, 2005.
Michael Gruber worked as a ghostwriter for many of the popular "Butch Karp" legal thrillers before publishing his first novel under his own name. The first part of a novel trilogy, his Tropic of Night introduces Cuban-born Miami police detective Jimmy Paz, a character who returns in both Valley of Bones and Night of the Jaguar. In addition to his adult novels, Gruber has also gained a teen following with The Witch's Boy, a 2005 fantasy that draws readers into an imaginative fairy-tale world.
In The Witch's Boy a forest witch takes pity on an ugly foundling and includes him into her home. Growing up, the child—named Lump—suffers in an emotionally isolated world. Nursed through childhood by a bear and trained in the supernatural arts by a djinni, Lump grows into an angry and resentful teen. Through a series of enlightening experiences that parallel tradition fairy-tale challenges, he ultimately learns to deal with his anger, accept his past, and take responsibility for his future. His journey comprises an "engrossing and enormously satisfying" story that presents a "different, and sometimes more frightening, take" on traditional fairy stories, in the opinion of School Library Journal contributor Sharon Grover. While noting that Lump is a less-than-admirable protagonist, a Kirkus Reviews writer praised Gruber's ability to draw teen readers along on a literary journey that follows the "ugly foundling child from dour innocence through an utterly hellish adoles- cence to joyful maturity." A Publishers Weekly contributor cited the author's inclusion of "inventive details," while Ilene Cooper wrote in Booklist that The Witch's Boy is an "astonishing fantasy" and "a well-structured adventure" that "plumbs the depths of the human heart."
Gruber began his publishing career in 2003 with Tropic of Night. As the novel begins, an anthropologist named Jane Doe has a run of bad luck: her husband goes missing and she nearly dies while studying shamanistic rituals in Nigeria. When a series of bizarre murders take her place—including that of her sister—Doe soon suspects her husband as the culprit. When she teams up with Paz, Doe discovers the solution to her mystery. In a review of Tropic of Night for the Washington Post, Patrick Andersen called the novel "an astonishing piece of fiction … that expands the boundaries of the thriller genre," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "What would be overripe overplotting in lesser hands becomes wonderfully credible here," due to Gruber's "cleverly drawn characters" and "trunkloads of ethnobotanical factoids." Brad Hooper, writing in Booklist, noted that the novel "has movie potential written all over it, which is no criticism of its depth—simply a compliment to its strong and colorful story line."
Paz returns in Valley of Bones, and readers follow his investigation of the death of a foreign man who falls out of a hotel-room window and was impaled on an iron fence below. The sleuth recruits psychologist Lorna Wise to help him investigate the state of mind of a crucial witness, and a love affair begins as the two try to unravel the case. Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, called Valley of Bones a "furiously overloaded story" but praised "Gruber's sharp, vivid flashes of the powerfully bizarre," which keep readers turning the pages. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the novel "more than fulfills the promise of … Tropic of Night," adding that "evocative prose, an erudite author, spellbinding subject matter and totally original characters add up to make this one a knockout." Frank Sennett, writing in Booklist, noted that Gruber "dishes up another meaty supernatural thriller."
In Night of the Jaguar Gruber completes his trio of novels featuring Paz, this time casting the Miamian as a retired detective who is called back on the case. When a number of Miami businessmen begin to die under unpleasant circumstances, Paz decides to join the murder investigation, and soon finds the deaths linked not only to the presence of an Indian shaman but also to dreams of jungle cats that have haunted not only Paz, but his wife and young daughter as well. Soon his daughter's life is threatened, and the detective must confront his deepest beliefs in order to save her, in a novel that a Publishers Weekly contributor called a "highly entertaining supernatural thriller." Night of the Jaguar "offers more social satire than its predecessors," the critic added, citing the author's portrayal of "do-gooder environmentalists" in his action-filled story. "When Gruber explores … religious rites … he's at his gripping best," added Booklist contributor Frank Sennett, praising the author's third "Jimmy Paz" novel.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Book, March-April, 2003, review of Tropic of Night, p. 31.
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Brad Hooper, review of Tropic of Night, p. 807; December 1, 2004, Frank Sennett, review of Valley of Bones, p. 639; March 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of The Witch's Boy, p. 1286; March 1, 2006, Frank Sennett, review of Night of the Jaguar, p. 72.
Entertainment Weekly, January 21, 2005, Abby West, review of Valley of Bones, p. 93.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of Tropic of Night, p. 12; October 1, 2004, review of Valley of Bones, p. 931; April 1, 2005, review of The Witch's Boy, p. 417.
Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Ken Bolton, review of Valley of Bones, p. 85.
MBR Bookwatch, January, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Valley of Bones.
New York Times, December 23, 2004, Janet Maslin, review of Valley of Bones, p. E12.
Publishers Weekly, March 11, 2002, John F. Baker, "‘Scariest’ Thriller for Morrow," p. 12; January 27, 2003, review of Tropic of Night, p. 233; November 8, 2004, review of Valley of Bones, p. 33; December 13, 2004, Lynn Andriani, "Hook, Line, and Sinker: Michael Gruber Lures Readers in with Thrills then Inspires Them to Contemplate Race, Faith, and the Environment," p. 39; March 21, 2005, review of The Witch's Boy, p. 53; February 27, 2006, review of Night of the Jaguar, p. 35.
School Library Journal, August, 2005, Sharon Grover, review of The Witch's Boy, p. 127.
Washington Post, March 24, 2003, Patrick Anderson, review of Tropic of Night, p. C4; December 27, 2004, Patrick Anderson, review of Valley of Bones, p. C4.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 20, 2006), interview with Gruber, and Kate Ayers, review of Valley of Bones.
Miami Herald Online,http://www.macon.com/mld/miamiherald/ (January 16, 2005), Betsy Willeford, review of Valley of Bones.
MostlyFiction.com,http://mostlyfiction.com/ (February 17, 2005) Mary Whipple, review of Valley of Bones.