A SKELETON IN THE FAMILY
By Leigh Perry
Berkley Prime Crime, September 2013 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
As an adjunct college professor, Georgia Thackery has moved all over the country for temporary teaching jobs. She is happy to be back in her hometown, teaching at McQuaid University and staying in her family home while her parents, both tenured professors at McQuaid, are away on sabbatical. Her teenage daughter Madison is thrilled to be living in a large house with a yard big enough for a dog. Georgia has always said they couldn't have one, using their gypsy lifestyle and tiny accommodations as an excuse, but in truth there is another reason for her reluctance — It has to do with a canine love of bones.
Many families have figurative skeletons in the closet, but the Thackerys have a literal skeleton in the armoire, an articulated, walking, talking skeleton named Sid. He became part of the family when Georgia was a little girl, and has — well, not lived, but resided, in the attic of the old Victorian ever since. He has a cushy setup, with a television, lots of books, and access to Georgia's computer, which he takes to like a duck to water.
Georgia is glad to be back with her old friend, but is unhappy and puzzled at Sid's refusal to reveal himself to Madison. Keeping his secret is awkward for Georgia, and having to be cooped up in the attic has Sid going stir-crazy.
When Madison and her friends attend a manga convention at the college, Sid talks Georgia into taking him as well. His costume is a big hit, and a fine time is had by all. He is troubled by one thing, though. He has no recollection of who he was during his lifetime, but at the convention he sees a woman he remembered from that time. He doesn't know who she is, or how he knew her, but seeing her makes him vaguely fearful.
With Sid's growing internet searching skills, assistance from a hunky newspaper reporter, and Georgia's college contacts, the woman is tracked down. Unfortunately, they are too late to question her, and in the process of locating her Sid's existence is uncovered by people who would really like to take possession of him.
This is the first in a new series by Ms. Perry, and what a charmer it is. Supernatural sidekicks are common in cozy mysteries today, but Sid is unique among them. The entire cast of characters is well-drawn and believable, the setting in a small college town is spot-on, and Ms. Perry's description of the life of an adjunct is interesting and enlightening. I look forward to the further adventures of Sid and Georgia.
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