A Skeleton In The Family Book Review
A Mystery Series For the Rest of Us
If there is one problem with the fantasy genre, it is the plethora of modern novels aimed at tweens and teens. The series may go on, but in the final chapter they grow up and the adventure is over, isn't it? The rather depressing implication being that adults need not apply. That fantasy and adventure are meant strictly for children. Rubbish, that's what that type of thinking is.
What would happen if as a hard-working single mom your best friend was a skeleton? And you lived in a world just like ours, a world with no magical communities to hide in because it is our world and there is no magic? There's just your best friend Sid, and how he is alive or unalive is a bit of a mystery you two may have to solve.
This charming series, well, two books as of my writing this review (now three), is a fresh take on the skeleton friend trope and is sure to be a hit with fantasy fans, mystery lovers, proud nerds (moi), geeks and otaku alike.
Because the story is a bit more grounded in reality. Sid the skeleton has no magical powers other than holding himself together by sheer willpower to protect the best friend who needs him. Should that need ever end it's game over. He does rarely go out, but there's no magic in his world so there is not going to be endless chances for fans to see Sid in one disguise after another. There's just too much risk if he is seen. Not just the panic he would cause, but let's face it, poor Sid would either be destroyed or end up in a lab somewhere.
Sid is best friends with Georgia Thackery and has been for a very long time. So long in fact that as the novel unfolds and centers mainly around Georgia readers will realize poor Sid hasn't had much of a life or unlife for the past decade or so. Hiding in her parents' home, mostly banished to the attic, Sid is lonely for his old friend and that is about where the story begins.
A mystery ensues (there will be spoilers) and the two friends must figure out the case to help Sid remember his past. But what kind of man was Sid before he died? Was he a good man as his friend insists? He did after all, save her life when she was six. Or, as Sid fears, is he a criminal whose past crimes are about to catch up with him?
Throughout the case the two friends have their friendship tested and Sid will have to choose between the home and family he loves or making the ultimate sacrifice to protect his friend once more.
Although the books are clearly aimed more at adults and there are certain topics you many not want younger readers learning about such as child abuse, there's enough otaku fun here to keep readers of all ages interested. Manga reading skeletons, anyone?
These novels are not Skulduggery Pleasant redux. So if you are looking for car chases, magic and intense battles you'll have to keep looking. But they aren't knitting sleuths or sweet old grans up to a bit of crime solving either. The pace is nicely in between, with just enough action and danger thrown in, but these are some of the hippest detectives out there.
Sid is his own skeleton, one who doesn't feel the need for clothes and has a habit of falling apart, literally, when he's nervous. He changes as the novels go along, learning and growing. But when we first meet him he is a rather lonely skeleton who wants his best friend back and needs to solve the mystery of his own past.
Georgia is Sid's best friend. She is. She just has a teenage daughter, a new job, and a hectic family to balance. Add in a new boyfriend who will raise everyone's red alert flags and she doesn't have as much time for him as she used to. That said, she sticks by her friend for the cases and rekindles their friendship. She also grows through the novels, realizing that Sid can't be treated as an afterthought. Skeleton or not, he's still a human being and deserves a better unlife that reading or playing on the Internet 24/7.
Madison is Georgia's daughter, she is blissfully unaware of Sid's existence, even when they move to her grandparent's house for her mom's new job. She's a proud otaku, or lover of everything people would call nerdy from Japan like anime and manga. And yes she's well aware the word is an insult in Japan, but like many American fans of the entertainment she adores, wears the name proudly. Her growth involves having to accept that there is a walking, talking skeleton in the family and learning to love him as much as her mother does.
Deborah For all of the first novel she is an antagonistic character. If she isn't undermining her younger sister's parental rights she is keeping up her hateful campaign against Sid. Although she thaws out part way through the second novel you get a sense she'd still like Sid gone. In her view she's only looking after her family, but if you read the first novel you'll see why I disliked her so intensely.
Byron This Akita plays more of a background role. He isn't a crime solving sleuth but he's there in both novels, first as an antagonist, then a victim, then a devoted member of the family, even though he seems to dream of munching away on Sid some day. I''m guessing he might do more in future novels if they are forthcoming, but as he is a constant canine menace in Sid's view, he does grace both covers.
A Skeleton in the Family
In the first book Georgia Thackery has returned home with her teenaged daughter Madison, one of the coolest young people you'll ever read about. A self-proclaimed otaku and darn proud of it she loves manage, anime, and all sorts of cool and trippy things that make me smile in delight since I like them too. Seriously, if you ever lived in a store that imports anime you will love her.
And Sid loves her too and shares her interests from afar. The family skeleton ever since the night he saved a six year old Georgia from a child rapist, he is lovingly devoted to the whole family, but strangely insists he remain hidden from Madison, his reasons for which are made clear at the end of the book.
So for a big part of the novel he must hide from her and try to snatch bits of time with his old friend while she balances a new teaching job as an adjunct professor at the same university her parents teach at. And to be truthful, Georgia is not always that great a friend.
Sure she loves Sid, and yes, she helps him with the case, and true, she had no choice but to leave him behind when she became a single mom. But there are hints here and there that while she has kept in touch poor Sid is an afterthought, having to scavenge what useful things he has out of the things the family doesn't need anymore. They do keep him in books, but they are in the English department. It would be weird if they didn't keep him in books.
That said, Georgia isn't a bad person. She's just a tad selfish like a lot of the other characters. She assumed that since Sid saved her life he was the family hero and her parents would love having a happy and friendly skeleton around. Only, they are academics and just don't have time for her playful friend.
Add in her new boyfriend and other changes and you might think she doesn't care, but she does, especially when Sid, having talked Georgia into letting him attend a convention at her college as Shingigami, Lord Death, from Soul Eater. He has a great time until he recognizes a woman from his past and feels fear and guilt and doesn't know why.
Sid, after all, has no idea how he became a skeleton, or who he was before. But this woman scares him so Georgia helps him uncover who she is, only in time to find the woman's dead body. And what unfolds is a case that keeps bringing the danger to both Sid and Georgia closer and closer to home.
I will warn you, the last line on this one had me choked up. But in a very good way and if you give this novel a spin you'll reap rich rewards.
If you are a fan of well-paced mysteries, skeletons, manga or just about anything else you will love this novel. Sid must go on the hunt to unravel the mystery of his past, but e may also have to sacrifice his very existence to save the family he loves. A great novel sure to win Sam many fans.
Shinigami Chop! Seriously, Sid, would totally do this.
The Skelton Takes a Bow
Georgia, Madison and Sid are back for a second adventure. This time Madison will be in the school production of Hamlet and Sid gets to be a star. Well, his skull does. And when left behind one night our clever friend knows he's heard a murder though no body is found. Can the friends crack the case?
I liked this novel even more since Madison is well aware of Sid and now the two are friends as well after a few rough patches. As hinted at in the first novel, Sid will either never truly die, and have to be watched over by his family down through the generations, or resign himself to a life of moving from one lonely place to another.
That does not mean our plucky skeleton hero is immortal, however. A good acid bath or being pulverized would send him to the hereafter. So of course you know he is putting himself in harm's way every time he finds a new case. And this one is harder still as one false lead after another lead the detectives down false trails.
There are a lot of good questions raised in this novel. About ethics, both towards Sid and in academia, whether it is ever justified to do the wrong thing because you are in a fix and desperately need the money, and what lengths will parents go to to ensure their children's futures?
I also liked that Sid got a more active role in the case, his skull being ferried back and forth to school in a bowling bag so he could investigate. Also mother and daughter were joined by Georgia's older and very bossy sister Deborah as the case turns deadly.
It also had a touch more grit, touching on such topics as underground pornography and child endangerment in a way that was realistic but didn't suddenly veer off into an Law and Order: SVU episode. I liked the touch of realism, mainly because we do not live in the happy and tidy world a lot of crime novels directed towards a certain reading population like to dwell in.
And it made me think, and made me want to keep reading. What, after all, could an adjunct professor, a skeleton and a few others do against a crime syndicate? So there was that realistic element of danger, because as the reader, I know skeletal pals aside I'd get squashed like a bug, most of us would. But our detectives are brave enough to keep going.
And yes, I keep mentioning the real world because this isn't the wonderful world of Skulduggery Pleasant. There is no Sanctuary to fall back on, heck, the cops think the detectives are crazy. And although Sid had a huge amount of Facebook friends, they are never people he could just come out of the ossuary and be himself with. Yeah, most folks would think it is a gag, just like we don't believe in pages for Slenderman or Grumpy Cat, but what if they did believe?
And there is the fact of Sid himself. He's a hint of us continuing on after death. Is he just the rare exception and we all pass on into oblivion, or do we all remain aware, or go into hibernation, or something else entirely? What made him stick around and why did he suddenly come back to life? The second novel answers a lot of these questions in my opinion, but I won't spoil it for you by giving them to you.
I'd personally love to see more of this series, since it is refreshing to see a detective that isn't a tween nor is she a sweet old gran. Sure, there are lady detectives of all ages, and yes, the single mom turned detective has been done before. But is she really a single mom with a loving family to support her and Sid having her back?
The Skeleton Takes a Bow
Ready for another adventure? Same decides to help out by taking a starring role in a Shakespearian play. Or at least his head does. But as luck or unluck would have it, Sid's cranium is in the wrong place at the wrong time and he is convinced he's witnessed a murder. Can the sleuths crack the case and was there even a murder to begin with?
Yup, I do own these wonderful books
Preview Video, Not Mine, Obviously
The Skeleton Haunts a House
Sid is back in a brand new novel! Join the plucky skeleton detective as he takes on the bad guys to uncover the mystery of a (gulp) real dead body found inside a haunted house attraction. Will being on the scene help Sid save the day, or will he gets dismantled for good?
Are you a fan of the series?
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