The Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew coverPUBLISHED IN: July 2014, paperback release date July 28, 2015.

THE AUTHOR: Deborah Halber

THE EDITOR: Sarah Knight

THE PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster.

ABOUT THE BOOK:  The Skeleton Crew provides an entree into the gritty and tumultuous world of Sherlock Holmes — wannabes who race to beat out law enforcement—and one another—at matching missing persons with unidentified remains. In America today, upwards of forty thousand people are dead and unaccounted for. These murder, suicide, and accident victims, separated from their names, are being adopted by the bizarre online world of amateur sleuths. It’s DYI/CSI. The web sleuths pore over facial reconstructions (a sort of Facebook for the dead) and other online clues as they vie to solve cold cases and tally up personal scorecards of dead bodies. The Skeleton Crew delves into the macabre underside of the Internet, the fleeting nature of identity, and how even the most ordinary citizen with a laptop and a knack for puzzles can reinvent herself as a web sleuth.

THE BACK STORY: ” I came across the story of a murder victim known only as the Lady of the Dunes. Since turning up with her hands cut off and her head bashed in on an idyllic Cape Cod beach in 1974, she had never been identified. I soon realized she was not alone: there are an estimated 40,000 Jane and John Does buried in potters fields and stowed in the back rooms of morgues across the US. And there is a dedicated contingent of web sleuths–volunteers who are trying to reunite them with their names.”

WHY THIS TITLE: I came up with around 30 possible titles, all playing on the notion of amateurs working cold cases in their spare time. My editor chose THE SKELETON CREW.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The people, the cold cases, the unlikely success stories: I call it revenge of the nerd, rags to (relative) riches and triumph of the underdog all rolled into one.


“A lively study that’s part whodunit, part sociological study. . . . The result is eminently entertaining and will be devoured by armchair detectives.” (Publishers Weekly).

“Brilliant . . . Ms. Halber chronicles with lucidity and wit . . . the workings of this fascinating new subculture.” (The Wall Street Journal)

The Skeleton Crew is a carefully crafted account of an intriguing new opportunity for arm chair sleuths. Thanks to the Internet, anyone with a computer, curiosity, patience, and a passion for justice can enter the dark world of missing persons and unsolved homicides. It’s fascinating to learn how such matches are made and heartening to witness the growing cooperation between law enforcement and ordinary citizens whose persistence can sometimes crack the code in cold cases that have languished unresolved for years. I loved it.” (Sue Grafton)

Deborah HalberAUTHOR PROFILE: Deborah Halber started out as a daily newspaper reporter, then turned to the dark side to do public relations. She worked as a writer and editor for Tufts and as a science writer for MIT, where she chronicled everything from quantum weirdness (that’s the technical term) to snail slime. A freelance journalist since 2004, her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, MIT Technology Review, the graphic news magazine Symbolia, and many university publications. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the National Association of Science Writers, she lives near Boston in a house with a lot of former pets buried out back.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Researching THE SKELETON CREW was eye-opening. I had no idea that this world of lost identity existed on such a wide scale, and I never failed to be moved by the commitment of those within this world to bring closure to strangers.”




Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

One thought on “The Skeleton Crew”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s