Thursday, September 26, 2019

Book Review: The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery held together by fun and humor
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Bone from an old corpse
Georgia and Sid on case
Another fun book

That Bone Isn’t Sid’s

I really have become addicted to the Family Skeleton Mysteries from Leigh Perry.  They are something different in the cozy market, and the little bit of paranormal, something I normally avoid, adds a lot of charm to the proceedings.  So I could hardly wait to dive into The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking, the sixth book in the series.

If you have missed this series, it does take a little explaining.  The main character is Dr. Georgia Thackery, an English professor who has not been able to get a tenure track position and is instead an adjunct, working at various colleges wherever there is an opening.  This book finds her back living with her parents as she is teaching at nearby Bostock College.  So far, it sounds like a fairly normal cozy, right?  Here’s what sets it apart, Georgia’s best friend is Sid, a walking, talking skeleton.  I was a bit skeptical when I first heard the premise, but I gave it a try, and I’m glad I did.  While the first book deals with Sid’s background, the rest of the books just focus on the current case and treat Sid’s existence as part of the world.  In that way, it keeps the paranormal to a minimum.

When Georgia’s dog, Byron, gets out one afternoon, and when she and her daughter Madison find him again, he is clutching a bone.  Naturally, the two assume it is part of Sid, and they race home to apologize to their friend.  However, all of Sid’s bones are present and accounted for, so they get the police involved.  It turns out that Byron has found part of a normal skeleton (you know, not walking and talking), and the police are able to determine that the skeleton was murdered.

The police have no leads on who the skeleton might have been in life, and Georgia isn’t planning to get involved in another mystery.  Then her friend and fellow adjunct, Charles, approaches her.  He thinks he might know the victim, but the only way to give the police that information might lead the police directly to Charles.  And so Georgia jumps into action again, with Sid doing his best to research the case on the internet.  Was the victim Charles’s friend?  If so, who killed her?

The plots in this series don’t always unfold in a traditional cozy manner, and this book is a prime example.  What do I mean by that?  We don’t have a body and 5 suspects who could have all done it.  Yes, we have a body, but because the murder didn’t happen in the present, we have to figure out who the victim was and then try to figure out who might have wanted to kill her.  Actually, I like this break from the usual formula.  Author Leigh Perry knows what she is doing plotting wise.  This is a strong book with twists, turns, revelations, and surprises along the way.  Of course, when we reach the end, everything makes perfect sense, but it kept me guessing until the very end.

What makes this book work is the fact that the characters are all very real.  And yes, that includes Sid.  He may be a skeleton, but he is a fully fleshed out character.  (Trust me, he’d love that pun.)  Georgia is a sympathetic main character, and I enjoyed getting to see her entire family again.  The characters we meet along the way to the climax are all just as interesting as the main characters, whether they are around for one scene or pop in and out of the novel.

One reason the fact that Sid is real works for me is that Georgia keeps his existence a secret.  The rest of her family knows about him, but that is it because they know the rest of the world would be freaked out if they met him.  In other words, this is a realistic world with just one slight tweak.  However, Georgia has found quite a few ways to include Sid in the investigation and her life, and I love seeing this creativity in action.

The only aspect of the book I found disappointing was the Christmas component.  I didn’t feel like we got quite enough Christmas atmosphere to fully feel the Christmas spirit.  But then again, I do love Christmas, so maybe I was expecting a bit much.  Overall, this is a very minor issue and worth noting only in passing.

I can’t leave out the puns and humor.  If we haven’t gotten every bone pun in existence by this point in the series, I’d be surprised.  Since I love puns, this is high praise from me.  There are plenty of other jokes and characters that made me smile if not outright laugh as I was reading along.

I truly have come to value any time I get to spend with Georgia and Sid, and The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking was purely delightful.  Whether this book is your introduction to Sid or you want a chance to catch up with old friends, you’ll savor every page.

Need more Sid?  Here are the rest of the Family Skeleton Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

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