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The Skeleton Haunts a House

The Skeleton Haunts a House, October 2015
Family Skeleton #3
by Leigh Perry

Berkley
Featuring: Sid the Skeleton; Georgia Thackery
284 pages
ISBN: 0425255859
EAN: 9780425255858
Kindle: B00SI02E4O
Paperback / e-Book
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"Perfect blend of the paranormal and cozy mystery genres"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Skeleton Haunts a House
Leigh Perry

Reviewed by Debbie Wiley
Posted October 29, 2015

Mystery Cozy | Mystery Paranormal

Halloween is one of the few times Sid can safely leave the home. After all, Sid is a living skeleton and at Halloween he can wear a costume to hide the fact he is all bones. Unfortunately, his foray out of the house with Georgia Thackery leaves him temporarily trapped in a haunted house when a dead body is found. Georgia and Sid can't resist the temptation to solve the murder mystery.

THE SKELETON HAUNTS A HOUSE is the third book in the Family Skeleton series but stands well on its own. Leigh Perry immediately immerses her readers into the lives of the Thackery family and Sid, the living skeleton. I definitely intend to read the two prior books as I want to know how Sid became a part of their family. Besides, I just want to read more about Sid as I absolutely love his character!

Leigh Perry does a marvelous job utilizing the humorous aspects to full effect as there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. However, the sense of family togetherness is what truly makes THE SKELETON HAUNTS A HOUSE perfect. From the family dinners to the various familial relationships, each and every aspect of THE SKELETON HAUNTS A HOUSE is a true delight.

THE SKELETON HAUNTS A HOUSE is the perfect blend of the paranormal and cozy mystery genres. Leigh Perry hooked me immediately with the concept of a cozy mystery combined with a living skeleton as I had to see how this would all work out. And oh what fun THE SKELETON HAUNTS A HOUSE is! If you love a good cozy mystery and a tad of the paranormal (such as a living skeleton!), then look no further than THE SKELETON HAUNTS A HOUSE as it is entertainment at its finest!

Learn more about The Skeleton Haunts a House

SUMMARY

Sid the Skeleton bones up on clues to solve a Haunted House homicide in this mystery from the author of The Skeleton Takes a Bow…

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…

Excerpt

Most people wear Halloween costumes in order to look scarier, but my best friend Sid had picked his to look less scary.

He’d already climbed into the full-body fur suit, and I reached up to put the head on.

“How’s that? Is it straight?”

“I think so,” he said, “but it’s hard to breathe in here.”

“You don’t need to breathe.” I wasn’t being mean. Sid really doesn’t need to breathe. In fact, he can’t breathe because technically, he isn’t even alive. He died over twenty years ago, and like most people who’d died that far back, all that’s left of him is a skeleton. Unlike most people—unlike any other people at all, as far as I knew—Sid has come back to…Well, if not to life, then back to consciousness, movement, and a penchant for watching old cartoons. He also has a passion for Halloween, since it’s one of the few times he can go out in public.

One might think that Sid’s usual boney appearance was already right on target for Halloween and in previous years he’d dressed as Death, the Grim Reaper, and Jolly Roger. However, recent incidents had linked skeletons and my family a little too publicly, and we’d decided that something more discreet was called for. Besides, Sid had run out of skeletal-themed costume ideas and was ready to try something new.

“How do I look?” He spun around slowly so I could see him in all his furry glory.

I reached up and straightened the green vinyl collar around his neck. “Not bad. I would never have recognized you.” That was, of course, the point of a full-body- covering getup. “Let’s hear the voice.”

“Scooby dooby dooooo!” he crowed.

“Excellent!” It wasn’t the best Scooby-Doo imitation I’d ever heard, but it wasn’t the worst, either. “Why don’t you practice moving around while I get my costume on? And remember you’re over a foot taller than usual, and a lot bigger around. Be careful and don’t step on the dog! The real dog, I mean.”

Byron, my daughter Madison’s Akita, had been solemnly watching the costuming process. I didn’t think he acknowledged the cartoon Great Dane as a fellow canine, and even if he had, Sid’s imposture would not have caused any latent affection to develop. Byron and Sid have a love-hate relationship. Byron would love to chew on Sid again, and Sid hated the memory of him doing so.

I left Sid stumbling around the living room, wincing as his tail nearly knocked a vase off of an end table, and went upstairs to my room to get ready. Since I was going as Scooby’s buddy Velma, my outfit was considerably easier to get on, and fortunately for my budget, had been made up of things in my house rather than rented from an expensive costume shop. I was wearing an old turtleneck sweater I’d dyed orange with a brick red corduroy skirt that I hadn’t worn in years. Once I added orange knee- highs and an old pair of sunglasses from which I’d poked out the lenses, all I had left to do was curl under my close-enough-to-Velma-brown hair.

When I got back downstairs, I did my own twirl. “What do you think?”

He put his paw onto his chin. “Your skirt is too long.”

“I hemmed it two inches shorter than any other skirt I own—that’s as far as I’m willing to go.”

“Isn’t Velma’s skirt pleated?”

“I didn’t have a pleated skirt, and besides, have you ever tried hemming a pleated skirt?”

“I don’t know about the shoes.”

“I am not buying a pair of shoes for one night.”

“And your hair is too long.”

“Sid!” I said. “I’m only dressing up to keep you company, not entering a most-authentic-costume contest!”

“Yeah, okay. Just say your lines!”

“Jinkies! I think we have a mystery here!”

“And?”

I pulled the glasses off and put them behind me. “My glasses! I can’t see without my glasses!”

“Scooby dooby doo!” He held up a paw for a high five, but managed to miss.

“Dude, I’m the one who lost my glasses!” I said, putting them back on my nose.

“Sorry. It’s not easy to see in this head. Shall we go?”

“Just as soon as we go over the ground rules.”

“Again?” He gave an exasperated sigh. “Don’t take off any piece of my costume until we get back home. Don’t go running around alone. Stay in character. Keep my phone handy.”

The phone rule had caused some problems since the costume had no pockets and Sid wasn’t wearing anything else, but I’d found a conference badge holder with a sturdy lanyard and a pocket big enough to hold the phone. Sid had it around his neck under the suit, and if necessary, could wriggle around to use it. It wouldn’t have been possible for a normal human, but most of what Sid did was impossible for a normal human.

“Good.” I checked that Byron’s food and water dishes were filled, grabbed my pocketbook, and said, “Let’s go!”

“I don’t think Velma carried a purse.”

“Sid!”

It took a little maneuvering to get Sid into the front seat of my green minivan with his head on. With anybody else, I’d have suggested he remove it for the duration, but since we didn’t want to give any children nightmares from seeing a skull on top of Scooby’s body, I just crammed him in and let him complain.

It wasn’t a long drive, anyway, though it took more time than it did most days because of the traffic. We were heading for the Halloween Howl, Pennycross’s annual celebration of all things spooky and scary. There were events scheduled at venues all around town, but McQuaid University—where I worked—was the epicenter. The Howl had started as a student Halloween party before morphing into the current month-long extravaganza. It wasn’t as famous as the Haunted Happenings in Salem, but it drew pretty big crowds from the western part of Massachusetts. We were still three weeks away from October 31 but the fair that was the main draw would be running all three weekends leading up to the big day, fortunately on a Saturday this year.

Normally I enter campus at the main entrance on Elm Street, but the tree-lined street was closed to vehicle traffic for several blocks to make room for the carnival midway, whose lights I could see as I approached. Instead, I drove around to the back entrance, hoping the faculty parking pass that was one of the few perks of being an adjunct English professor would enable me to find a decent spot. Luck was with me—I snagged one of the last half dozen spots in the lot nearest the festivities.

The campus quad was normally a tranquil oasis of grass and stately oak trees, but tonight it was filled with tents for selling food and drink; campus club fundraising activities like a dunking booth and a cakewalk; a bandstand and dance area; and community arts and crafts displays.

I tugged my overly short skirt down a bit and helped Sid out of the car. After we made sure his head was on straight, I said, “Lead the way, Scooby. It’s your night to howl!”

“Thanks, Velma,” he said in a passable rendition of Scooby’s accent, and grabbed my hand to pull me along.

I didn’t blame him for being excited. Since Sid had come to live with my family back when I was six, ninety-nine point something percent of his time had been spent inside our house. Any opportunity to get out was a treat—being able to cavort in public was like Christmas.

He wasn’t the only one cavorting—the campus was hopping. And dancing and slithering and creeping and all the verbs that went along with the Halloween Howl. The McQuaid security officers were the only ones I saw who weren’t in costume. Sid played his character to the hilt, pretending to be frightened of a crowd of zombies, boogying with a lady vampire, and joining the tail end of a conga line composed of masked superheroes.

By then it was fully dark and I was getting chilly, which Sid noticed despite the fun he was having.

“You okay, Geor—Velma?”

“I’m fine,” I said, though I was starting to wish I’d rented a fur costume of my own. “I’ll grab some hot cider. That’ll warm me up.”

“Wait! I know! Let’s go to McHades Hall!”

“No, cider will be fine.”

“Come on!” Sid said, and grabbed my arm again to pull me through the crowd toward the front corner of the quad where a particularly bustling building loomed.

McQuaid Hall was the oldest building on campus, but the out-of-date, poorly maintained structure needed so many repairs that it was rarely used for anything but photo ops until a member of the McQuaid Scholars Committee realized that the place bore a striking resemblance to the Addams family mansion in the old TV show. So what better way to raise money for scholarships than to convert it to a haunted house every year, and rename it McHades Hall for the occasion?

McHades was one of the star attraction of the Howl. I understood the haunt was one of the best in our part of the country, but I’d managed to avoid setting foot in the place. I was hoping to maintain that record, but three things were working against me. One, my sister, Deborah, was in charge of McHades this year. Two, my daughter, Madison, was working there. And three, Sid had a death grip on my hand.

As we got closer, we saw that the line of people waiting to

get in snaked along the sidewalk. “Oh darn,” I said in relief, “we’ll never make it through that line. Let’s hit the midway.”

“Don’t worry, Deborah will get us in,” Sid said, pulling me past the gathered ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties to the tent where Deborah watched over a pair of ticket sellers, talking into a walkie-talkie.

Sid cheerily said, “Hi, Deborah! It’s me, Scooby!”

Deborah looked resigned. My sister was a locksmith, which she said meant that she dealt in hard facts that made sense. Since Sid did not make sense, she had a more difficult time accepting Sid than I did. “I figured you guys would be showing up,” she said unenthusiastically.

Sid lowered his voice to what he thought was a conspiratorial whisper. “I don’t suppose you can sneak us past the line, can you?”

“You’re in a fur suit,” she said dryly. “Not exactly easy to sneak.”

“Aw, come on, Deborah—”

“But as it happens, Madison reserved will-call passes for you two so you can go in with the next party.” She handed an orange cardboard ticket to Sid, then tried to give me one.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll wait out here.”

“You don’t want to go in?” Sid said.

“Nope.”

“Not even to see Madison give her spiel?”

“She did it for me at the house.”

“You’re not still freaked out about—”

“No, I’m not,” I lied. “I just don’t like going in front of all these other people. You go ahead.”

“Are you sure?”

“The next party is leaving now,” Deborah said, though I’m not sure if she was taking pity on me or getting rid of Sid. Either way, he scurried off to join a group. A young Snow White immediately announced that Scooby would protect her from any monsters, and reached up to hold his hand.

“Isn’t that cute?” I said.

“It’s not going to be cute when she comes out of the haunt crying.”

She pointed at a sign on the ticket booth.

WARNING!

McHades Hall is too scary for the following:

People with weak hearts.

Those who faint easily.

Pregnant women.

Intoxicated visitors.

Children who frighten easily.

Enter at your own risk—no refunds!

“Yow. Maybe you guys should tone it down a little.”

“If we tone it down, people complain because they feel cheated. We’re not talking McKamey Manor or Blackout, but we are trying to scare people. That is the point, after all.”

“I guess.”

“Just because you don’t like haunted houses—”

“I know, I know. I’m a wimp.”

She shrugged. “You can see we’ve got plenty of customers without you.” If anything, the line had gotten longer since we’d been talking. “Come Halloween, people are going to be waiting for two hours to get in. I just hope my cast lasts. All that screaming and scaring is hard work.”

“So how long is Sid going to be in there?”

“It takes about half an hour to go through.”

“Then I think I’ll go get a hot dog.”

“Bring back hot dogs and fries for me and my ticket sellers, and I’ll pay for yours.”

“Deal!”

I ran into my friend Charles along the way, and stopped to chat for a bit. Then with the line at the concession stand for hot dogs and the difficulty of carrying my load through the ever-increasing crowd, I was gone considerably longer than half an hour. When I finally got back, I handed Deborah the sack of food, reached in to grab a hot dog and a mustard packet for myself, and asked, “Isn’t Scooby out yet?”

“Out and back in again. He was making a hairy nuisance—”

“Good one!”

“What?” She made a face. “God, you’re as bad as he is. He was making a nuisance of himself while waiting for you, so I gave him another ticket.”

“Jinkies. I guess he enjoyed it.”

“Something weird about a . . .” She looked around and apparently decided too many people were in earshot. “About a guy like Scooby liking a haunted house, don’t you think?”

“You know, he volunteered to work here for you.”

“Madison told me. Thanks, but no thanks. We only hire fake spooks.”

“Suit yourself.” It was probably just as well. The other cast members might have noticed there was something odd about my pal.

I’d just finished my second hot dog when the first screams came. Well, to be fair, people had been screaming the whole time, attesting to the success of the scare actors’ efforts, but these came via Deborah’s walkie- talkie.

“What’s going on in there?” she demanded of whoever was on the other end.

The response was loud enough that I could hear it plainly. “There’s a dead body in here!”


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