by William Ritter
Book 2 in the Jackaby series
Abigail Rook has begun to settle into her role as assistant to paranormal investigator R. F. Jackaby. Vicious shape-shifters that disguise themselves as kittens and ghosts living in the bedroom are all part of a normal day's work. Life with Jackaby is never dull or routine. When dinosaur bones are discovered in nearby Gad's Valley, Abigail is eager to visit the site and indulge her love of paleontology. Jackaby is disinclined to go until former police detective Charlie Cane writes the pair, asking them to investigate a mysterious animal that has begun attacking the animals and people living around the dig site. They oblige, and soon after setting foot in Gad's Valley are swept up in an intrigue of stolen bones, scientific rivalries, murder, and an impossible creature's return to life.
One of my favorite things about Beastly Bones was the vicious competition between Owen Horner and Lewis Lamb. The characters' names are tribute to real-life fossil hunters like Richard Owen and Jack Horner, and the conflict between the two men is modeled on the behavior of 19th century paleontologists like Richard Owen, who is as remembered today for his ruthless self-promotion and brazen claims of discoveries others made before him as his contributions to the study of dinosaurs. In the book, their behavior seems so ridiculous for men of science, but that's how it was in the early days of this field.
Owen and Lamb may not be able to get along with each other, but Abigail and Jackaby continue to be a powerful partnership. They work so well together, with Abigail's simple common sense, scientific background, and observation skills complimenting Jackaby's endless store of esoteric knowledge and experience with the otherworldly. Their relationship is also refreshingly platonic; although there is some romance, the young adult staple love triangle is avoided.
Other relationships in the novel deepen, too. While the mystery of the events in Gad's Valley consume much of the book, we also learn more about Jackaby's resident ghost, Jenny Cavanaugh. Usually, she appears as a cheerful and beautiful woman, but we see a darker and sadder side of her now. Jackaby describes it as an echo, when a spirit becomes unable to move beyond their final moments. Abigail frets that Jenny may become trapped in this echo state, but they cannot help her until the ghost is willing.
A Victorian atmosphere, ghosts, and dinosaurs...how could I not love this book? It's got all of my favorite things in one neat package. Even better, Ritter handles each of these elements well, bringing them together for a story that's creative, fun, and full of surprises. The third book in the series, Ghostly Echoes, will be released towards the end of summer. I can't wait.
5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Beastly Bones, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal
2013: The Big Top Giveaway
2012: Fashionista Piranha on hiatus until May 24th
2011: In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
2010: Discussion Question: E-Reading
2009: News: Digital Piracy Affects Books, Too