An “appendix in a family of brains,” Lee Donne long ago resigned herself to disappointing her extremely intelligent parents. Having changed her college major three times and showing no signs of ever graduating, Lee is asked to house-sit for her grandfather in his home in Eugene, Oregon, while he heads to Oxford to lecture on Shakespeare. Thinking of it as a sort of enforced vacation, Lee keeps herself busy by cleaning up the rambling house chock-full of ancient stuff.
But the quiet, uneventful stay comes to an abrupt end one frightening night when Lee begins to hear strange sounds in the middle of the night. Scared out of her wits at first, Lee decides to find out if and why someone has begun this campaign of terror against her. The disbelieving police are of no help, the FBI suddenly come to search the house, and poor Lee doesn’t know whom to trust or believe. With no one to rely on but herself, this young woman finds her worst nightmares coming true when she discovers some long-forgotten family skeletons.
Kate Wilhelm’s Skeletons is a study in terror, and she’s extremely effective in rendering her reader witless with its menace. There is no single villain as such. It's the unbelievably bloodcurdling circumstances in which this feckless young college student abruptly finds herself in that add an extra level of suspense and trepidation to the story. Without revealing the details, suffice to say that the truth at the core of this novel is all the more convincing because of its realistic nature. How the story traverses its long and difficult length without missing a beat is a masterpiece of relentless suspense. Wilhelm has done excellent research into the historical details, and she presents it in such a way that it has the maximum impact with minimum fuss. Characterizations are crisp, the pace is fast and ruthless, and the suspense is only too good. How Lee Donne braves all odds makes up the story; whether she’ll emerge triumphant or not remains the suspense.