My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 stars to Leigh Perry‘s The Skeleton Takes a Bow, the second in her Family Skeleton cozy mystery series. With autumn beginning last week, I decided to focus my next few weeks on books with Halloween or Thanksgiving themes, beautiful fall scenery and the quaint, mysterious New England small town appeal. After also having a chance to connect with the author via social media, I moved up this book on my list and happily dived in over the weekend. Due to a little confusion surrounding the reveal at the end, I’d rate it somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 — but let’s not focus on decimal points — let’s get into the review!
Sid is a skeleton who although murdered in human form many years ago is somehow still alive with an ability to walk and talk. He’s lived with Georgia for about 30 years since she was around 5 years old, and only her parents, her sister and her daughter know about Sid. Sid and Madison (Georgia’s daughter) take roles in her high school’s upcoming Hamlet production which allows for Sid to sit out in the theatre without any concern. When he accidentally overhears a murder being committed, he enlists Georgia and Madison to find the killer before he strikes again. Georgia takes on a part-time SAP instructor role at the high school, in addition to her full-time role as an adjunct English professor at the local college, which both serve to help her meet potential suspects and determine possible motivations. Using the themes and plots from the Hamlet play, Georgia, Deborah (her sister), Madison and Sid draw out the killer but soon find one of their own in grave danger. In the end, the murderer is revealed and all goes back to normal — as it should in a cozy mystery!
One of the signs of a good author is an ability to push readers through their disbelief at some aspect of the plot and still enjoy the story; this is exactly what happens with a walking and talking skeleton in this book. While on the edge of fantasy (as I don’t personally know of any real life skeletons who act like Sid), I never stop and think “this couldn’t happen.” Sid is so well written that he integrates into the plot and setting, and has relationships with other characters to the point of not recalling he isn’t actually alive. He’s likely to be everyone’s favorite character given his humor and lot in life. When the writer can make that happen, the book is off to a good start.
The setting and characters are really growing on me. I find the college atmosphere and the family life dramas very comfy and readable. There are characters who annoy me in a good way and there are characters I feel like I already know in person. The series is worth investing in given the possibilities of future stories, characters and drama. You’ll find a few connections to different characters that make you feel part of the book, not just someone watching from afar.
The pacing in this mystery is generally good but the ending was slightly off. Throughout the story, you’ll encounter several potential suspects and a few good red herrings. When you finally learn who the murderer(s) are, you play a waiting game to figure out was it really two people or was one of them just caught up in a situation not fully understanding what was happening — good suspense; however, when the scene moves from the outing at the Hamlet play to the danger at the cabin, it happens “offscreen” due to the book’s narration. I wasn’t certain how the murderer(s) got from “this is bad, we have to take this person out” to which person actually wanted to kill the victim(s) to one of the suspects winking at Georgia over the whole situation. I think it could have been more clearly depicted so that you had a better sense of how both of the suspects fit into the overall actions. It would be more tightly woven and an easy 4 in my scale.
If you like the cozy, and you want something a little different than the norm, this is a fantastic read. Start with the first book and then read this one (they take about 3 to 5 hours depending on your readying style). If you haven’t read a lot of cozies, and you’re not looking for something with a little offbeat humor, then this isn’t for you.
I liked it a lot. I’m hopeful for two big things in the series’ future direction: (1) Let’s meet Georgia’s parents. Who wouldn’t be curious about two 60ish college professors who are on sabbatical for a year to work on other things… who just accepted the walking and talking skeleton in their 2 young daughter’s lives, who seem to be highly respected. They’ve got to be kooky, loving and funny… and… (2) Let’s learn more about Sid. While the first book covered who he was when he was fully alive, as a reader suspending my alarm over this fantasy component, I would like to know if he is the only skeleton out there, how is it he is still able to walk and talk, will he ever interact with other people or his own family, etc. I think there’s more to this piece of the story and I hope the author goes there!