Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

A Skeleton in the Family (Family Skeleton Mystery #1)A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this was an enjoyable mystery. The story centers around Georgia Thackery, who has returned to her home town to be an adjunct faculty member at one of the local universities, where her parents are tenured. She is staying in her parents house while they are on sabbatical, with her daughter, Madison, and Sid, the skeleton. Who is “alive.”

I’ve been reading a lot of paranormal mysteries lately and a “live” skeleton is different. Georgia’s theory is that Sid is haunting his own skeleton, however, no explanation is ever really given for Sid and I’m not sure there is one.

There are two murders in this mystery - Jocasta Kirkland, a Zooarcheologist, at the other university, which is current, and Sid’s murder, 30 years ago. Jocasta Kirkland is someone Sid (in disguise) recognizes on a outing with Georgia. They decide to try and talk with her and head to her house, where they find her dead.

The odd thing about this mystery is that the focus is not on finding who killed Dr. Kirkland, but who is Sid? His recognition of Dr. Kirkland makes him wonder who he is -- after 30 years of being a “living” skeleton. Georgia then takes Sid in to be “evaluated” and learns that he is indeed a he, in his early 20’s and that he was most likely murdered.

There were things I liked about this book. Georgia uses resources from her fellow adjuncts and university faculty and online newspaper archives to gather information. When needed, she does visit a few people. She did not call in the murder. She and Sid got out, then she called in a tip. Georgia seemed to get along with her fellow faculty members and, of course, she gets on well with Sid. There are a couple of chapters after the resolution that wrap up some other threads of the story, done well, and what I wanted.

There were a few things that were a little odd. Georgia has no close friends. Except Sid. Granted, she seems to move a lot, but she seems to be pretty much on her own. Her sister Deborah doesn’t like Sid, though that resolves. Sid didn’t want Madison to know about him; that too resolves. While we learn who killed Sid (and the Doctor), it’s almost anti-climatic and we are given the impression that there will be no charges in Sid’s murder and it seems that the police didn’t really care about a 30 year old missing person’s case, which turns out to be a 30 year old murder. After learning who Sid is, Georgia talks to Sid’s college roommate, who seemed like he’d really like to know what happened if she figure’s it out; it would have been nice to know if Georgia let him know.

Madison almost seems secondary to this story, but it’s not unique to this book. Though she has a good relationship with Madison, she is mostly on the periphery of this story. Same for her sister, Deborah. And, finally, it seems truly odd that someone’s best friend would be a Skeleton. Oddly, I’m not doubting the friendship, but that there wouldn’t be any other friends. I’m hoping some develop in future books as I do plan on reading at least the second book in this series. I also wasn’t sure about Fletcher, who Georgia seemed to like and who seemed like a good guy and then, eh, not really. Georgia and Sid are the best developed characters - the rest are just kind of there and not really developed. I hope this changes in future books.

The one thing that was a little annoying was the constant thread about how poorly adjuncts are paid, how badly they are treated, etc. I work in academia and I know the adjuncts life is not easy, but it bordered on preachy after a while.

If you are looking for a mystery that’s a little different, give this one a go.

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