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Family Skeletons (Torie O'Shea Mysteries, No. 1) Mass Market Paperback – June 15, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

If there was ever an American cozy, MacPherson's first book is it. Victory "Torie" O'Shea is a thirtysomething wife, mother, amateur genealogist, and museum docent living in Missouri. When local shopkeeper Norah Zumwalt asks Torie to research her family tree and a short time later ends up brutally murdered, Torie feels compelled to investigate the crime, despite warnings from the local sheriff to mind her own business. What she finds is a decades-old murder, a mysterious case of mistaken identity, and a bizarre love triangle. MacPherson's story has an appealing down-home style and offbeat charm, and Torie, a midwestern version of Kinsey Milhone, is smart, sassy, and full of Missouri spunk. There are a few rough places where MacPherson tries too hard to be funny or where the plot doesn't quite hang together, but overall, this is an entertaining effort from a promising new writer. Emily Melton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A breezy, fun, and woefully unconvincing debut featuring hausfrau-of-all-hobbies Victory O'Shea of the historic German town of New Kassel, Missouri. Young Victory is approached after her costumed tour of an antique-furnished landmark to do a genealogy for a well-groomed but rather glum lady who was long ago deserted by her father. (Victory, among various civic activities, makes an occasional buck doing family trees; meanwhile, if you can believe it, her divorced, wheelchair-bound mother keeps track of Victory's house, husband, chicken coop, and two preschoolers.) Now, Victory traces Norah Zumwalt's father to a nearby town, then finds her client bloodily murdered. Swiftly adding killer-catching to her list of interests, and perhaps egged on by a sexily adversarial relationship with the police chief who once jailed her for speeding, she uncovers a snakepit of neurotic motivations among Norah's ex-husband, grown children, and perhaps unfaithful lover. Further complications arise when Victory discovers that Norah's father has a largely fabricated identity. And then the Mississippi overflows. . . . MacPherson does okay by her cute heroine but--while she pioneers the excellent fictional entr‚e of genealogical research-- is helpless to exploit the fear, grief, and sheer bloody-mindedness that lead to violence here. Stressed female readers may feel that her supermom deserves a case and possibly a career of her own. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (June 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312966024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312966027
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #988,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read a couple of other in the series and hadn't realized until I was finished that this was the first. The series centers around Torie O'Shea, a woman who lives in a small town on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis. She's married, has a good family life, works part-time in a historical house giving tours in period costumes, and her hobby of genealogy is sometimes done for pay. This story begins when a woman on a tour comes up to her and asks her to research her family tree -- with particular interest in her father, who disappeared in World War II without a trace. For some reason, Torie takes the work, although she hasn't done genealogy for pay for a while. Very quickly, there's a murder that is quite possibly related to her genealogical search. Someone seems anxious to get Torie to just drop it. Which of the people she's been meeting is the killer, and presumably also the person who has been trying to get her to drop it.

This whole series is entertaining -- well written, well plotted, and, well, cozy. But this particularly volume isn't quite the caliber that I'd give five stars to -- but quite possibly, 4 1/2 stars.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Victory "Torie" O'Shea seems to lead an idyllic life in the historic town of New Kassel, Missouri. In this first book from St. Louis author Rett MacPherson, we meet Torie and her family. Torie is married to Rudy and has two little girls. Torie also works as a tour guide of the historic buildings in her home town of New Kassel, even dressing in vintage clothing while giving her tours. Torie is also an avid genealogist. As the story opens, she is hired to prepare a family tree for town resident Norah Zumwalt. Norah has an interesting family mystery, which is that her father went off to World War II and was never heard from again--no official death record from the war or anything. After finding some interesting information which she wants to share with her client, Torie is horrified when she goes to Norah's house, finds the front door ajar, and discovers that Norah has been savagely murdered.

Being naturally inquisitive (or is it nosy?) Torie wonders if there is some secret in Norah's family tree that led to her murder. Throughout the story, Torie works with the county sheriff to find out the identity of the murderer. The plot is a good one, with lots of turns.

I enjoyed the genealogy aspect of the story too. I'm looking forward to reading Torie's next adventure in family history.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When "Torie" is not pointing out the fine craftmanship of an antique writing desk to tourists or sandbagging around her home to keep the mighty Mississippi from sweeping her life away, she freelances in genealogical research. Local antique shop owner Norah Zumwaldt employs Torie to track the whereabouts of the father she never knew, believed KIA during World War II. Torie accepts the challenge; she is intrigued by the mystery of the project, but finds herself embroiled in a bigger mystery when Nora is murdered. Clearly for Torie it's one more death year to add to the tree and her family hopes she will leave it at that. If she did, though, there wouldn't be a story.
The search for Norah's killer encompasses Torie's expertise in research, as it appears some "family skeletons" just won't stay in the closet, not to mention some long-lost relatives and a slew of unsolved murders from the past that may be linked to Norah's. Bolstered by Torie's witty yet sometimes exhausted point-of-view (what mother of two small children with a full-time doesn't get tired sometimes?), Family Skeletons is a light, cozy read one can finish rather quickly.
Be warned, however, of a brief continuity error that may leave you scratching your head more so than the actual mystery: early on in the story Torie is talking to a contact and mentions that the last time she saw him was at his mother's funeral. A few sentences later she is threatening the fellow with telling his mother about a past affair of his unless he delivers some important information. I admit I had to read the passage a few times to get that straight. I'm sure it is just an oversight that didn't get corrected in the final editing (unless I read it wrong). It shouldn't, however, divert you from the main mystery.
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Format: Hardcover
New Kasel, Missouri shop keeper, Norah Zumwalt hires local historian and genealogist, Victory "Torie" O'Shea to amass a family tree and to learn what happened to her father who disappeared during World War II. Almost immediately, Torie uses military records to track down Norah's missing father, who apparently lives in a nearby town. When she goes to Norah's home to tell the woman all that she has already learned, Torie finds the murdered corpse of her client.
.....Though extremely busy, Torie decides to complete her client's request by developing the Zumwalt family tree. She is also curious and wants to learn why Norah was killed and why her father never returned to his hometown and family. As she learns more about the secret life of her deceased patron and the woman's family, Torie has placed herself and her beloved family in jeopardy from an unknown assailant who wants FAMILY SKELETONS left in the closet. If Torie is not careful, the murder count may soon rise with Torie and her family becoming the latest homicide statistic.
...... FAMILY SKELETONS is an interesting who-done-it loaded with many viable suspects. However, what makes this debut novel a treat is Torie and her delightful family, who come across as multi-dimensional characters living complex lives and entering into eventful relationships. Mystery fans need to keep an eye on newcomer Rett MacPherson, who appears to have a bright future ahead of her within the genre.

......Harriet Klausner
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