"Before There Were Skeletons" By Judy Penz Sheluk: Review/Giveaway

Review by Kathleen Costa

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book and a link to purchase it.

Forty-something Calamity “Callie” Barnstable has taken tragic circumstances and made an opportunity. After the death of her father in an “unfortunate occupational accident,” she inherited a house in Marketville with a codicil in her father’s will charging her to solve her mother’s murder. She had always been told her mother disappeared all those decades ago, but murder? Her journey into her family’s past led her to make several good friends whose expertise in research techniques, ancestry background, and even new age talents with tarot and psychometry helped her uncover some shocking details. She made efforts to include her maternal family, but they had limited interest in her or her search. In the end, she learned one important detail about herself…she was good at  finding answers. This led her to open Past & Present Investigations.

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Image Source Superior Shores Press
Before There Were Skeletons
Earns 5/5 Cold Case Conundrums…Exciting Gem!

Callie woke a 5:55, a license plate included 5-5-5, an advert for a restaurant listed its address as 555, and the young waitress asking her about a job gave her phone number, the last digits being 5-5-5. Is this significant or purely coincidental? Misty Rivers, long-time friend and associate, explained the pros and cons of numerology, spirit guides, and angel numbers, but also saying it just might be an indication of changes approaching, a need to let go any fears, or maybe embracing opportunities as a way to foster growth or understanding. She is surprised by a call from her maternal grandmother about their decision to move and her demanding way to get Callie’s help to go through her mother’s old room…memories and mementos, and maybe even some insights into the mother who disappeared when she was six. Is that the opportunity related to the 5-5-5?

Callie’s business, Past & Present Investigations, is struggling, so it was fortuitous to receive a call from Lucy Daneluk, whose connection to the Ontario Registry of Missing and Unidentified Adults had been extremely helpful on a previous case. This, too, might just be a way to embrace that opportunity eluded to by Misty’s review of Callie’s 5-5-5 mystery. But, the details of the missing persons cold case (Veronica Celeste Goodman 2/14/95) eerily reminds Callie of her mother’s own case: “Pregnant at seventeen. Disappearing on Valentine’s Day. The jewelry.” Additionally, Lucy remarked on two other missing persons cases that on the surface seem unrelated—Kelly Anne Acquolina (1/31/95) and Wanetta Bulmer (1/17/95). Callie isn’t so sure of that seeing that the three woman each went missing in 1995...5-5-5.

Cold Case Favorite! Judy Penz Sheluk has a big hit with the newest book in her Marketville Mystery series with a trifecta of cold cases to solve. Callie had agreed to meet with Kathleen Goodman, the daughter of one of the missing. She closely identifies with the young woman’s dilemma, so once again she is entangled in a complex mystery hampered by the passage of decades, poor memories, and obstacles from those who are reluctant to dredge up the past, but connections are real and compelling. Her new assistant, Denim Hopkins, is eager, skilled in tech, and a delightful apprentice to Callie’s mentoring. Callie continues to have a sour relationship with her mother’s parents, but some of her mother’s things offer interesting insights not only into her mother but to the missing persons cases. Law enforcement joins in Callie’s journey since the missing persons were official cases. Detective Sheridan Merryfield is handsome, something Callie notices, clever and fair, she learns, and although he sees she is competent and skilled in her search and not bad to look at, he shares little of himself or the case. The final reveal provides a level of closure for all involved, not always, of course, in ways expected, but thoroughly satisfying and rewarding.

Judy’s writing style has always been entertaining, descriptive, witty, and “couldn’t put down” engaging as she details the lives of these women and their disappearance. In this book several characters from the other books have spread out over Canada, but they are still valuable providing interesting avenues to locate pertinent facts. Denim is a delightful addition and Detective Merryfield is what I’d hoped…finally, a romantic interest that just might be perfect for Callie. Families are explored in all their goods and bads, secrets exposed with their benefits and disadvantages, and opportunities are confronted as rewards. It is a top read again! Don’t forget to read the Author’s Note and Acknowledgments which offers some reality to this fiction.

A Marketville Mystery

Skeletons in the Attic (2017) Reviewed HERE

Past & Present (2018) Reviewed HERE

A Fool’s Journey (2019) Reviewed HERE

Before There Were Skeletons (2022)

Be a Big Judy Penz Sheluk Fan!

I am definitely a big fan of Canadian author Judy Penz Sheluk, having enjoyed beta reader experiences with her work. Along with this very engaging MarketvilleMystery series, Judy also pens another favorite, TheGlass Dolphin Mysteries, following Emily Garland and Arabella Carpenter as they seek their own answers. Both women have made cameo appearances in Callie Barnstable’s Marketville Mysteries with their expertise in antiques and collectibles an invaluable resource. She also has a short story collection called Live Free and Tri along with participating in several multi-authorcollections. I highly recommended her work...always creative and entertaining!

Facebook — Judy Penz Sheluk, Author

Website — Judy Penz Sheluk

To enter to win an ebook copy of Before There Were Skeletons, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "skeletons,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 5, 2022. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via comment please include your email address so we can contact you. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

You can use this link to purchase the book or click here. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Thanks so much for this Kathleen and KRL. For some reason bI can't log in so I'll have to be anonymous. Judy PS

  2. We have a winner!
    Lorie Ham


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