by William Ritter
Published on September 22, 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Young Adult
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“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, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.
Jackaby and Abigail are back for another mystery, this time involving shapeshifters, a hunter of extraordinary creatures, and a dinosaur. I was eager to dive into the next installment of the series after reading Jackaby but what I found was a bit… disappointing.
What pulled me into the first book was the combination of Sherlockian mystery and the supernatural without falling into the realm of cliche. The characters had quirky personalities (namely Jackaby) that I enjoyed following, and the plot moved at a good pace throughout. Beastly Bones failed in several of these aspects in comparison.
We’re introduced to a new character in this one, Hank Hudson, a hunter of all things extraordinary. He became a large part of the story and was likable enough. There’s history between him and Jackaby that I wanted to know more about but the way this book ends, I’m not sure how much more we’ll be seeing of Mr. Hudson.
I found my favorite part of this series so far — Jackaby — to be severely lacking. His personality made the first book so enjoyable but his presence wasn’t nearly as strong in the sequel. Most of the book focused on Abigail’s excitement over the dig site they are investigating, an unusual dinosaur unearthed in the neighboring town. I wasn’t expecting a truly thought-provoking story with intricate characters, by any means, based on Jackaby, but this book had a bit too much science talk to really keep it light and fast-paced.
(I should mention that I love science talk but not when it becomes a central point in a story involving shapeshifters, especially when it doesn’t even apply to said creatures.)
The romance was another point off for me. It’s hinted at in the first book that there might be something between Abigail and Charlie, the officer forced to relocate after events in Jackaby. Beastly Bones addresses this only slightly and not enough to really make it worth including. Unless the next book really brings it out, I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t have just been friends as I don’t think it would change the story one bit. It’s not often that I don’t want to ship two characters (considering they’re the only real shippable ones in the book) but I see no reason to add in the romance subplot.
I think what I find hard to pinpoint with this book is the fact that I did enjoy it, though less so than the previous. The writing is on par with my expectations though something never felt quite the same about it. And I wouldn’t call the plot bad but it felt like more fluff than substance.
Beastly Bones sadly fell into the realm of disappointing sequels. I hope to see things back to “normal” in Ghostly Echoes as I do enjoy this series. They’re somewhat predictable and quick reads, but I think that’s what sets these books apart from other supernaturally-inclined stories I pick up. I definitely recommend reading Jackaby, and I guess we’ll see if it’s worth reading the rest when Ghostly Echoes comes out.