THESKELETON TAKES A BOW Guest Post by Leigh Perry
The Bare Bones
The titular skeleton of my Family Skeleton series is not a metaphor.
I wanted to get that out there because mystery books often feature skeletal figures on their covers to represent death, murder, and spookiness in general. Plus the phrase “family skeleton” is a figure of speech referring to some sort of family secret. So a lot of people assume that I’m not writing about a real skeleton. But I am. I’m writing about Sid.
Sid is a walking, talking, joke-making skeleton. He’s lived with the Thackery family… Well, not really “lived,” because, you know, he’s a skeleton. Rather he’s been cohabitating with the Thackerys since Georgia Thackery was six years old. When she moves back to the family home with her teenaged daughter Madison to take a job and house sit for her parents, he’s waiting to welcome them. Together Georgia and Sid solve mysteries—think of it as a very different version of Nick and Nora Charles, if the Thin Man were a whole lot thinner.
There are a couple of questions people often ask about the series.
“How did a skeleton come to life?
I have no idea.
Sid has his own theories, of course. Maybe he was bitten by a radioactive skeleton. Maybe he’s a very skinny zombie, though he’s never shown an appetite for brains. (Or for any other food, actually.) Maybe he’s a ghost haunting his own skeleton. Georgia’s parents wondered for years, but since she was so young when he joined the family, she accepted him just as she did Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and her father’s kooky Aunt Mabel.
So just as I don’t want prospective readers thinking Sid is a metaphor, I don’t want anybody expecting some grand revelation about Sid’s origin.
“Where did you get the idea for the series?
Sorry. Same answer. I have no idea.
What I have is notes about a skeleton solving his own mystery that are over ten years old, so I know when I got the idea. In fact, there are two pages I wrote back then that appear in A Skeleton in the Family almost intact. But I can’t track down what I was thinking—or drinking—the moment I first heard Sid’s voice in my head.
My best guess is that I was trying to put a spin on paranormal mysteries, because I love reading them so much. But the thing was, my pal and sometimes co-editor Charlaine Harris kind of had the vampire mystery market covered with her Sookie Stackhouse series, and my other pal Dana Cameron was fast taking over the werewolf mystery field with her Fangborn stories. I could easily call to mind mysteries with witches, ghosts, zombies, wizards, fairies, angels, and of course other vampires and werewolves. Enter Sid. Noisily. .(It’s hard to sneak around when your feet are bare bone.)
Other aspects of the book are much easier for me to explain. Since I had Sid, I had to have somebody who would be willing to allow a Sid into their home, which implied a certain amount of eccentricity. Some of the most charmingly eccentric people I’ve ever met have been academics, so I gave Georgia a pair of English professors as parents, and made her an English professor as well. Since I didn’t want Georgia confined to one setting, I made her an adjunct faculty member, which means she’s had to move a lot during her career. I made her a single mother of a teenager at the suggestion of my then-editor Ginjer Buchanan, who figured that since I have teenaged girls myself, I’d have all the research material I needed. Ginjer also suggested adding a pet to the mix, and though we considered cats and guinea pigs, we settled on a dog because an ambulatory collection of bones plus a dog equal comedy gold.
But back to the symbolic aspects of the Family Skeleton mysteries, now that I think about it, there are plenty of the more metaphorical kinds of family skeletons. In A Skeleton in the Family, the first of the series, Sid and Georgia investigate Sid’s own murder and uncover the man behind the skeleton. (Or should that be around the skeleton?) And in the just released The Skeleton Takes a Bow, Georgia and Sid find all kinds of secrets in the local high school where Sid is starring in a production of Hamlet. Well, maybe not starring. But he is in a very visible role as Yorick from the “Alas, poor Yorick” scene. Of course, when Sid is on stage, things rarely go according to script.
So if you enjoy mysteries about an honest-to-gosh skeleton clattering around, take a look. In the meantime, I’ll keeping writing about Sid as literally as I can.
About the book: And the best performance as a skull goes to
After years of hiding in the Thackery family house, Sid the skeleton is delighted to finally have his moment in the spotlight. He’s starring in a high school production of Hamlet. Well, not so much starring in as being a prop. At least part of him has a part—he’s using his head to play Yorick of “Alas, poor Yorick” fame. Every day, Georgia Thackery’s daughter, Madison, who’s also in the play, brings in his skull, and every night, she takes him home...
Until one night when he’s accidentally left at school—and hears the sounds of someone being murdered. But the next day, there’s no body and no one seems to be missing.
Sid is not a numbskull—he knows what he heard. Georgia thinks he imagined it—until a week later when a body is found. Now Georgia and Sid will both need to keep their heads as they stick their necks out and play sleuth to catch the conscience of a killer