A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry, the pen name of author Toni L.P. Kelner, is the first in a humorous new series featuring an adjunct professor and mom and her friend since childhood, the family skeleton Sid (available September 3, 2013).
Mom/adjunct professor, Georgia Thackery, has taken every job offered to her on the adjunct professor circuit, and that requires a lot of moving around for her and her teenaged daughter Madison. Now she’s been offered a job at McQuaid College where both of her tenured professor parents teach. Since her parents are presently on sabbatical, Georgia and Madison are moving into Georgia’s family home, which also happens to be Sid’s permanent residence.
Georgia is delighted to once again be able to spend lots of time with her old friend, although she is irritated by the fact that he continues to refuse to meet Madison. This will give you some idea of the give and take of their friendship.
Hugging Sid is an unusual sensation. The closest thing I’ve ever felt to it was wrapping my arms around a really dried-out Christmas tree so I could lug it out to the street. Sid didn’t have that nice a scent, but then again, he didn’t leave an annoying trail of pine needles either.
“Did you lock the front door in case Madison comes back early?” Sid asked.
“No, but I will.” I did so. “Sid, are you sure you want to play it like this? I know Madison is ready to hear about you.”
Sid and I had agreed when Madison was born that it would be best if we waited to let them meet face-to-skull. It wasn’t that he was overly terrifying in appearance—my father’s great- aunt Margaret, who used a pound of white face powder a week and dyed her hair to the darkness of a black hole, was much scarier.
Sid’s insistence that Madison not know he exists adds a lot to the humor of the story. Wait, just wait, until you read about the Mangachusetts convention for fans of Japanese comic books and animation. Sid decides he wants to go and thinks he’ll be fine in costume, but Georgia is worried. How can she bring Sid without Madison noticing?
She manages and Sid becomes one of the stars of the day until he sees someone who jogs memories from his pre-skeleton days and he is determined to investigate. Of course Sid doesn’t travel well, so he’d have difficulty discovering who the woman is and why he remembers her. After a bit of friendly bickering, Georgia agrees to help.
Amazingly, Georgia finds a way to reconnoiter with Sid in tow, something akin to many past Halloweens, apparently. And of course, it doesn’t take them long to discover the dead body of the woman who jogged Sid’s memory at the convention.
As Georgia and Sid become convinced the murder victim has something to do with how Sid died and wound up a skeleton, they search for information that is decades old. During the course of the investigation, we readers find out how Georgia and Sid first met and why their bond is so strong. And eventually, while always protecting each other, the two friends parse out the connection between two murders and they are able to lead to the arrest of the murderer.
I had a grand time reading this fresh, original novel peopled (and skeletoned) with enchanting characters and a warm, engaging story. The undercurrent of the gift of love and loyalty between friends and family members gives this book a burnished glow of strength and peace. I totally loved every page and want to visit with Georgia and Sid again and again. Bring on book two of the series!
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Terrie Farley Moran’s recent collection of short stories, THE AWARENESS and other deadly tales, is currently available in e-format for the Nook and the Kindle. Terrie blogs at Women of Mystery and you can find her short story “Knowledge is Deadly” in the November issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine now on newsstands. She is presently writing the Read ’Em and Eat Café cozy mystery series.