I’m pleased to welcome Judy Penz Sheluk to my blog, author of Skeletons in the Attic and The Hanged Man’s Noose. I chose to read Skeletons as a reviewer for Mystery Thriller Week after noticing one of my Goodreads groups was considering it for a group read. The description piqued my interest. I was a bit skeptical about the paranormal aspects to the plot, but requested it anyway. Man, am I glad I did! It is easily a 5 star mystery, and one I highly recommend. Read my review, then take a moment to get to know Judy better in my interview with her.
My review of Skeletons in the Attic
Skeletons in the Attic is an excellent mystery. The interesting and well-constructed lead character Callie Barnstable is easy to sympathize with and relate to. The story is suspenseful with enough false herrings and hidden clues to keep you guessing all the way to the end.
The first few chapters of the novel lead me to believe the story would have a strong supernatural element, something I’m not usually that keen on. Luckily for me, Callie is just as skeptical as I am and that contrast – a haunted house story with a doubtful lead character – worked well and I found it refreshing.
At the beginning of the novel, Callie’s father dies in a tragic work-related accident at a construction site. When his will is read, his only child is shocked to learn that he’d left her a house in a suburb close by, one which she didn’t know he owned and has no memory of.
In fact, she had lived there until she was six-years-old, before her father moved them to nearby Toronto after her mother disappeared without a trace. And that leads to the caveat in the will; her father requires her to live there for one year and investigate claims by previous tenants that the house is haunted by her mother’s ghost. If she declines, she loses the house to a psychic – already on retainer – who is prepared to live there until the ghost is ‘released’. Certain this psychic is a scam artist who duped her father into adding the caveat, Callie accepts the challenge and moves in.
Callie’s investigation into her mother’s past and the supposed haunting is done in a realistic way without getting to new agey. There are no séances or palm reading, though tarot cards do play a role. The author is adept at leaving clues in plain sight, which only after you finish the book, do you realize how important those tiny tidbits of information were!
The large cast of side characters – Callie’s neighbors, romantic interest, suspects and informants – are all well-developed and helps introduce different moments of tension or effectively move suspicion from one person to the next. The end was a bit of a shock and I’ll admit I didn’t see it coming.
I enjoyed reading this story and felt engaged with the characters and story line. When I wasn’t reading it, I found myself wondering what would happen next. That is always a good sign!
I highly recommend this book to amateur sleuth buffs and mystery aficionados alike.
5 out of 5 stars
Introducing author Judy Penz Sheluk
Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing career.
I left the corporate world in 2003 to pursue a career in freelance writing. Since then, I’ve written articles for dozens of North American publications, and I’ve also edited some magazines. I’m currently the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal and the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine. In December 2011, I decided to start a novel. The result was The Hanged Man’s Noose, which was published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press. The protagonist is a freelance writer/editor and her sidekick owns an antiques shop. There’s a housing element in the book, too. Write what you know!
I’ve also had some short stories published, mysteries in anthologies, a couple of self-published collections. You can find them all on my Amazon author page. I love short stories but find them incredible challenging to write.
Where do you do your best writing?
I can’t begin to imagine writing in a coffee shop, though I know people do. I have an office in our house. The walls are painted Benjamin Moore’s Philipsburg Blue, and I have my book covers “Plaque-it” as wall art. I write listening to talk radio, which I find I can tune out easier than music. Maybe it’s all those years of working in a noisy office environment.
I also enjoy writing at our lakeside property on Lake Superior. It’s a different process, in that I write a lot of longhand – old-fashioned pen and paper— while sitting on our dock. But it’s very liberating and the only background noise is the waves on the rocks.
What are you passionate about, aside from writing?
Golf, but since I live in Canada, it’s a six month season at best. I also love walking by dog, Gibbs, a Golden Retriever who will be about 15 months old when this posts. He is my fourth Golden. I also love to run, though these days, I’m more about the 3 miler than the marathon.
You’ve written several series. Why did you decide to create multiple protagonists, instead of sticking with one?
Actually, only two series so far, though I have an idea percolating for a third one, and I’ve written a few short stories. The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose) and the Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons in the Attic) are the series. When I was shopping for a publisher for Noose, I couldn’t bear to write a sequel to a story I hadn’t sold, so I started Skeletons. They are very different books, but I believe my voice as an author is evident in both. At least I hope so.
Do you recognize yourself in any of your characters?
There is a part of me in every character, some more than others, but the characters are not me, if that makes sense. For example, Emily Garland in Noose is a bacon-eating vegetarian (guilty as charged), Arabella Carpenter in Noose loves shortbread (ditto), and Callie Barnstable in Skeletons is addicted to cocoa butter lip balm (yup, me too).
Do you read books by other authors when working on a first draft, or do you prefer not to?
I’m a voracious reader and mysteries are my go-to genre. Reading is the best teacher, whether you enjoy the book, or not. If I put a book down, I’ll think, “What made me stop reading it?” and if I can’t put it down I’ll think, “Why can’t I put this down?” I read for enjoyment, but I also read like a writer.
What are you working on now?
A short story. The very stubborn sequel to Noose. The sequel to Skeletons. Notes for a novella. I’ve got a lot of stories in my head!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Australia/New Zealand, because my mom always wanted to go there, and didn’t. Because it’s on the other side of the world and for that reason it seems fascinating. But I’d also like to see Alaska, the Yukon, the east coast of Canada…actually all of Canada. It’s unlikely to happen, though, unless there’s a writer’s conference I think I should attend. At the end of the day, there’s no place like home.
About the Author
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery (#1), was published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016 by Imajin Books.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime. The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang, and Live Free or Tri.
In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer; her articles have appeared regularly in dozens of U.S. and Canadian consumer and trade publications. She is currently the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine, and the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.
Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, the South Simcoe Arts Council, and the Short Fiction Mystery Society.
To find out more about Judy Penz Sheluk and her books, visit http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.