Berkeley/Penquin, © 2014
Moving into her second semester as an adjunct at McQuaid University (and living in her childhood home, while her parents, both of whom are tenured full professors at McQuaid, are on sabbaticals), Georgia Thackery has enough on her plate—5 courses—when her daughter Madison (who had auditioned for the role of Ophelia) is cast as Guildenstern (in Hamlet). And the resident skeleton, Sid, is cast as Yorick’s skull. The plan is that Madison will take Sid’s skull (which can hear, see, and speak, and which somehow holds the entire skeleton together) to school, where she will stow him in her locker, and take him to rehearsal. And bring him home at night.
Until one night, things get sort of frantic, and Madison forgets about Sid, who spends the night backstage in the auditorium/theater. And overhears what seems to have been a murder.
There is, of course, no sign of a body, and no sign of a struggle. But there is a dead body—a woman, who as these things happen had also been an adjunct at schools in the area. But not the murder victim. So, how and why did she die? And where’s Sid’s murder victim?
Absent a relevant corpse, it’s hard to get the police interested. But Georgia persists, and turns up a shady foundation, possible ringers taking the SAT for local students (for a price…). Perry does a fine job weaving all the strands of this plot together (including the life issues of yet another adjunct, Dr. Charles Peyton), and provides us with a quite suspenseful and stirring climax. In which, I’m pleased to say, Sid plays a starring role.
I enjoyed the first book in this series (The Skeleton in the Attic), and this entry is a substantial step up in quality. The characters are as real as they come, and the issues in their lives outside the murder are not imposed for the sake of the plot, they arise organically from who the characters are. If you have not read the first one, go get it, and then get this one. A very good read.