The Skeleton Haunts A House
A Family Skeleton Mystery, Book #3
By Leigh Perry
Author Website: leighperryauthor.com
What holiday could bring more warmth to a skeleton’s chest cavity than Halloween? And when you’re a living skeleton who’s not supposed to be seen outside the house, it’s a welcome chance to get some fresh air and rub bony elbows with people. That’s why Sid doesn’t mind wearing a full-body dog suit and going as Scooby-Doo along with Georgia Thackery’s Velma to the Halloween Howl.
Sid can’t wait to go through the Haunted House—but he gets rattled for real when a genuine dead body is discovered. Trapped inside as the police quickly seal off the crime scene, Sid makes no bones about dropping the dog suit and posing as an actual skeleton. This murder is a skull-scratcher, but as long as Sid is on the inside, he might as well case the joint to figure out who used the cover of darkness to commit the perfect crime…(Goodreads)
With its perfect Halloween setting for Sid the skeleton, The Skeleton Haunts the House is an ideal mystery to curl up with on a brisk autumn day…or any day.
It is October in the small college town Pennycross, Massachusetts, and McQuaid University has been transformed into the perfect locale for the annual Haunted Howl, complete with a carnival, midway, and haunted hall. The oldest building on campus, which sits empty the rest of the year, becomes McHades Hall every Halloween satisfying the conditions of the McQuaid family’s bequeathment to the university. It is opening night of the Howl, and Sid (the skeleton) is beside himself with excitement to attend. Opportunities to leave the house without drawing unwanted attention to himself are understandably few and far between so his best friend Georgia, an adjunct professor at McQuaid University, is more than willing to escort him to the festivities. The two dress as Velma and Scooby Doo (since Sid has exhausted all the standard skeleton costumes). Georgia’s sister Deborah is in charge of McHades, and her daughter Madison is working in the haunted hall. Everything is going well, even though Georgia does not want to go inside the hall, until real screams pierce the night and an actual dead body is discovered in the Zombie Party Room. Sid finds himself caught in the sealed off crime scene and ditches the dog costume to become part of the haunted house’s display. This provides an excellent opportunity for Sid to eavesdrop on the police. When the police zero in on the abandoned Scooby Doo costume, Deborah knows the police are on the wrong track and implores Georgia and Sid to find the real murderer so that McHades Hall can reopen.
At first it seems that there is absolutely no reason for Kendall, a college student home to attend the Howl with friends from high school, to die, but the more Sid digs for dirt on the web and Georgia talks to people the more they uncover. The university stands to lose McQuaid Hall and some adjacent land if the haunted hall does not reopen. There is also a missing heir who, if found, could take everything despite the conditions laid out by the McQuaid family. Could this be the real motivation for the murder? Was Kendall simply at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or did Kendall have some secrets someone would kill to keep quiet? Or are Sid and Georgia on the wrong track altogether?
I will come right out and say it – I love Sid! The concept of a “living” skeleton as a main character should not work, but it does, delightfully so. Sid is not a ghost or a monster, but an irresistibly charming, slightly goofy, witty, devoted best friend and partner to Georgia . They have been together since Georgia was six years old, and it is easy for the reader to suspend reality and forget that he is dead. They are definitely amateur detectives, bumbling their way through theories, clues, and information. They make plenty of incorrect assumptions that lead them down wrong paths, but in the end, they get to the bottom of things, all while unintentionally putting themselves in harm’s way.
Georgia is middle aged and still struggling to make it in the world of academia, but she is practical (if a bit impulsive), intelligent, inquisitive, and loyal. Her love for her daughter Madison is palpable, and though her relationship with her sister rocky you know they would do anything for each other. In this third installment, we finally meet Georgia’s parents, professors who have been absent on sabbatical. They make a quirky family, and their dynamics are good. They are all well developed characters but with room to grow. One character whose appearances are peripheral is Byron, the Akita. He and Sid have a love/hate relationship because Byron steals Sid’s bones to chew on. This makes me laugh probably more than it should. The other subordinate characters, including other university faculty, law enforcement, and Georgia’s new romantic interest, all provide additional small town flavor.
The Halloween backdrop is perfect for Sid. I enjoy fall themed cozy mysteries, and the descriptions of the costumes, haunted hall, and carnival food seemed just right for this time of year. I do think that The Skeleton Haunts the House can be read any time of year without any dimming of the fun and festiveness. This series obviously boasts a paranormal theme, but Perry’s handling of Sid and easy yet suspenseful and clever writing, should appeal to any reader.
The mystery itself is well thought out and paced. There are plenty of viable motivations and correlating offenders, but the actual reveal came as a bit of a surprise. I love it when that happens since I usually guess whodunit way too soon. This installment ends with Georgia’s future a bit up in the air, and I am impatient to see what the future holds for her.
The Skeleton Haunts the House, and the entire Family Skeleton Mystery series for that matter, is a fun-filled, action-packed read that engrosses the reader from the first page to the last. Highly recommended! I come away from reading this thinking that every family should have a skeleton, not in their closet, in the attic. Long live Sid!