Once again, a huge thank you to Algonquin Books for providing me with an egalley copy of the book to review.
“Jackaby” was one of the highlights among the books I read last year. It was refreshing, witty, and fast-paced, and I was very pleased when I learned a couple months ago that, indeed, there would be a sequel to the book. Without hesitation I knew I needed to satisfy my curiosity with “Beastly Bones”. However, my expectations got ahead of me, I must say, for the experience I had when I encountered Jackaby for a second time was slightly different.
It is with quite a lot of reluctance that I must admit I did not enjoy “Beastly Bones” as much as I enjoyed its predecessor. I didn’t expect to have such a reaction, but I finished the book with a few mixed feelings scattered here and there regarding the series, and I will try to formulate them as clearly as possible.
“Beastly Bones” returns the reader to the familiar and witty cast of Abigail Rook, Jackaby, and Charlie, along with new faces we encounter as they are uncovering the mystery behind the archaeological find in Gad’s Valley. Jackaby’s character maintained the same witty characteristics and the perfectly paced brilliant lines that displayed his sarcastic nature or his naïve wittiness. However, he lost some of his eccentricity for me. I found the Jackaby of the sequel to be more tame, more sophisticated. He took a backseat to Abigail this time which is not bad per say, but I would’ve loved to see them both in equal proportions. Abby felt overwhelming at times. Her character remained as perfectly constructed as it was in the first book, and her thoughts and debates about the case and later on about Charlie were very well written, further establishing her as the very spirited yet well-rounded kind of protagonist that are a pleasure to read about. But once again, I do wish Jackaby figured as strongly as her. I find them to be a kind of Sherlock-Watson kind of pair, which occurred in “Jackaby”, but in “Beastly Bones” it felt Abigail was slightly overpowering.
I think it’s the pacing that was the ultimate setback for this novel. The beginning saw a huge build up, with the kittens and Hudson and Jenny, and it took quite a lot of bickering and disagreements at the dig site to finally glimpse where the case was going. The characters of the two rival archaeologists and the reporter Nelly weren’t very fleshed out either, serving their rather small roles in the tale before disappearing, leaving behind a longing for a little more explanation about them, a certain dimension that I felt lacked. I felt rather foolish when the big reveal came for I admit I did not see it coming, and the logical explanation behind it was very sound and well-developed, so I do praise Ritter for once again pulling off a wonderful case for Jackaby to solve.
My one fear is that this series might become too similar to the Sherlock mysteries. The cliffhanger at the end, and the mysterious figure, remind me all too much of Moriarty, especially the Moriarty of Guy Richie’s movies. Hopefully this won’t be the case, and his identity and backstory will be something equally lively and memorable as Moriarty’s without being too similar.
Overall I enjoyed the book, though not as much as the first, as I’ve said. I think it might simply be another case of the ‘middle book’ syndrome that often strikes book series, especially young adult ones. I do however look forward to the next installment with great interest as there are many questions still left unanswered and many character developments I look forward to reading (Abby and Charlie, the scene at the end at the train station, I honestly had to stop reading and let out a loud AWWW at that moment, it was absolutely adorable).