Book Review: Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel by William Ritter
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Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel
Hardcover | Kindle Special Chapters Edition
Written by William Ritter
Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Cover Price: $17.95

“Some girls work in shops or sell flowers. Some girls find husbands and play house. I assist a mad detective in investigating unexplained phenomena – like fish that ought to be cats but seem to have forgotten how. My name is Abigail Rook, and this is what I do.

Abigail Rook’s quirky, disheveled employer, R.F. Jackaby, certainly keeps her on her toes in William Ritter‘s second story of the pair, Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel. This time, cats turn to fish, dinosaur bones are stolen, and Abigail’s ghostly best friend is acting strange, by ghost standards. Investigating the dig will bring her back into the realm of Charlie, “Fortune favors the bold.”

Fans of Jackaby will be quite satisfied with this sequel, as Jackaby channels his inner “Doc Brown” to crazy perfection. The first novel introduced us to this world of delight, and although I liked the first one a bit better, this is a solid effort and I look forward to future ones. Ritter is really good at making me feel as if I am Ms. Rook, clever yet still feminine. Jackaby and Rook’s relationship is exactly as detective and assistant, without the pesky hints of romantic tension that are expected from such a close working environment. He treats Ms. Rook as an equal (and in the 19th century, that means like a man), and she treasures that about him, despite the “for granted” she gets taken in expectation. Everyone else they encounter do not treat her as such. We meet another strong woman, Nelly Fuller, a journalist, who offers some advice.

The novel is from Rook’s point of view in the form of a journal. Chapter 13 is where I got taken out of the story for a moment in this delightful discovery. You’ll see. Of course, then I was dying to know what had been hidden. They leave the streets of their town to the countryside of Gad’s Valley, to the side of the dig where the dinosaur bones had been discovered. This is to the thrill of Rook, who studied paleontology.

What isn’t hidden? What will you see during this second exciting, upside down, and sideways adventure?

– A Stymphalian Bird (one of the labors of Hercules)

– Jackaby training a ghost’s mind

– Dragons?

– A chameleomorph. You’ll see.

A fun fast read for all ages. I read the above excerpt to my 11-year-old, and he will be reading it next. It also sets up a third novel rather nicely at the end.

Algonquin Young Reader’s synopsis:

“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . .”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Beastly Bones, the second installment in the series, delivers the same quirky humor and unforgettable characters as Jackaby, the book the Chicago Tribune called “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

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