Author: Leigh Perry
We begin October with a new paranormal cozy series featuring a walking, talking skeleton. Leigh Perry is a pseudonym for Toni L.P. Kelner, of the former "Where are They Now?" series (review click here.) We were fortunate to interview Ms. Kelner not long ago (click here.)
Copyright: Sept 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs
Series: 1st in A Family Skeleton mystery series
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy with a touch of paranormal
Main Characters: Dr. Georgia Thackery, Adjunct English professor
Setting: Modern day, McQuaid Univeristy in Pennycross (Western) Massachusetts
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
Georgia is a single mother who shuffles between college adjunct teaching jobs since she hasn't been one of the fortunate to get a tenured position. She is back in Pennycross staying at her parent's house and starting a new adjunct teaching job. Her life is busy, but average...except for the the "ambulatory skeleton" named Sid that she grew up with. Since she was six years old and Sid came to her rescue, the Thackery family has had Sid "living" with them. Sid is glad to have Georgia back home and resume their amigo relationship. Georgia's teen girl, Madison, is into manga and is excited to attend a manga convention called Mangachusetts. Sid devises a costume that will allow him to go to the convention as Lord Death and have a little fun.
Everything works perfectly and nobody realizes that a ghostly skeleton was among them. But Sid recognized a woman from his life before he awoke all bones. Dr. Kirkland is the only clue to who Sid may have been when he was breathing. So Georgia and Sid go about investigating who Sid had been, and find Dr. Kirkland murdered...and evidence that Sid was murdered too. Now, they are trying to find the killer out of self-preservation.
Georgia is one of the few "mom" characters that I really enjoy. She is smart, fun, responsible, and loyal. She isn't too chatty as a narrator either. Sid, the family skeleton, is a unique and fresh character and a delightful side-kick. He is a ghostly skeleton who loves puns and one-liners, reads voraciously, and loves The Nightmare Before Christmas. He is the best friend providing moral support to Georgia, like when she was facing being a single parent. I grew fond of the character quickly and wanted to see him happy. That is an accomplishment with a skeleton! Madison is an enjoyable child with a low drama factor and is reasonable. Thank You! Dorothy, Georgia's sister, has a bad attitude that I didn't care for, but does speak to family dynamics in general. Fletcher Wildman is a Journalism adjunct and reporter who is the romantic interest in the story. Fletcher gets mixed reviews for being a stereotypical reporter. There is Dr. Kirkland's dog, an Akita named Byron, who joins the ragtag little family as well. Dr. Charles Peyton is a "dapper" history professor and old friend of Georgia's who I loved and hope he gets more than a bit part in the next novel.
The small college town of Pennycross is the setting, which has McQuaid Univeristy and also Joshua Tay University. The colleges have room to be developed in subsequent novels since this book mainly utilized the prejudice against adjunct teachers and the pressure of doctoral dissertations.
The plot is solid for a debut: find out how Sid became a skeleton with evidence of a head trauma and knife wound. He has no memories of his life but recognizes a Joshua Tay University professor. That is the starting point and the avenues for investigation are logical. The pacing remains steady and light with information revealed piece-meal.
The climax was dramatic - my thanks. The killer was kept hidden until the very end, and while hints were given in a general sense, this isn't like a traditional mystery with a laundry list of suspects to eliminate. The wrap-up provides closure for an important element of the story and sets up the next novel nicely.
This is a great paranormal cozy with plenty of humor, mystery, and a smidgen of romance culminating in a light, enjoyable, and quirky debut novel.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.
Here is a musical clip from the Corpse Bride featuring some singing and dancing skeletons.