The small southern town of Sugarland is filled with excited people. A documentary is being filmed by the history channel about a civil war battle that occurred in the town. The movie is to be billed as residents of the town coming together to fight off the invading Yankees, in order to protect their town from destruction. This should be enough excitement for a small town but when a local librarian is murdered to cover up an old secret, Verity has no choice but to get involved.
As you may have guessed from the book cover, The Skeleton in the Closet is paranormal chicklit. It doesn't hide what it is or attempt to be anymore than that. If you go into expecting something light to while away a few hours with then you might just enjoy, Verity's latest adventure. It's got a grumpy gangster ghost, a pet skunk, mixed in with a murder mystery.
Fox walks the line between exulting the antebellum south and calling it out for what was. Fox makes it clear that "Tennessee was one of the most divided states in the nation, and our boys had gone off to fight on both sides". In fact, Sugarland continues to be divided today based on whose family did what during the civil war. The big elephant in the room however is slavery. Not once does Fox point out that the entire reason for the civil war was slavery, even if she has Verity (the protagonist) make it clear that she believes that the North was proven right in the end. Chicklit is meant to be light but if you're going to write a book about the antebellum south and how it effects the modern era, to do so without including characters of colour is beyond problematic. Where are the Black people in this story?
Fox didn't shy away from detailing the horrors of war. In detail, Fox wrote about the surgeon who long after his death continued to operate on long dead soldiers. The surgeon continues to amputate limbs and his surgical gown is covered in blood. Even though both the northern soldiers and the confederate soldiers are dead, both sides continue dehumanise each other. It's a small lesson in how war teaches people to see those belonging to the other side as less than human and or civilised.
This is the second book in this series in which the victim is female. I like that Verity is a strong protagonist who speaks her truth and stands up in the face of oppression and I like that she seems to have a lot of female support; however, having a woman as victim twice in a row has me raising my eyebrows. Let's see if this trend continues.
Where Fox continues to stand out is in her discussion of class. A large part of Southern Spirits
(the first novel in this series) dealt with Verity's struggle to pay off a debt and that involved her selling most everything she owned and living on Ramen Noodles. Fox continues this struggle in The Skeleton in the Closet
because though Verity has reconciled her debt, she still doesn't have a job and is effectively poor. Verity puts on a brave face but she's aware that one of her best dresses has a hole in the pocket and with only three dresses to her name, this is most certainly not convenient. Verity continues to largely live on Ramen Noodles though her friends and neighbours do from time to time offer her a decent meal which she absolutely appreciates. Fresh fruit is very much a luxury for Verity, so much so that she only eats half a banana at a time in order to treat her pet skunk with the other half. The dollar store is where most of things that Verity purchases comes from. Verity absolutely lives a food insecure lifestyle that is familiar to far too many people.