Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jackaby, the Second Novel - Beastly Bones

This series has quickly jumped to the top of my "most enjoyable books to read" list.  The Jackaby series is a mix of mystery and supernatural, with some well-written banter and underlying subplots that would work well in a soap opera.  Simply put, the Jackaby books are a near substitute for the Dresden Files, which series has seemingly stayed on hiatus until such time as Jim Butcher can get in the mood to write more!

In Beastly Bones, the second Jackaby novel, author William Ritter delves a little more into the past of our two protagonists - R.F. Jackaby and his assistant, Abigail Rook (from whose perspective the books are told).  Rook finally gets an opportunity to show her knowledge of archaeology when she and Jackaby are asked to assist an old friend (and former love interest of Rook!) with regards to a mysterious death - one that has a strange connection to a seemingly unrelated death right in Jackaby's hometown.

Ritter provides his usual brand of humor and quirkiness as Jackaby follows his own path of investigation upon arrival, and Rook is forced to do everything she can to not only keep up with him, but to soothe the natives who don't understand Jackaby's ways.  Something is attacking the farm animals in Gad's Valley, and someone ... or something ... is stealing bones from a rather odd archaeological find - the skeleton of what at first appears to be a dinosaur.  But the bones were found too close to the surface, and when they uncover bones that would indicate wings, there is question as to whether it is a hoax.  While the two famed archaeologists fight it out, Jackaby and Rook come to a completely different realization - it's not the skeleton of a dinosaur at all - rather, it is a dragon!

As with the first books in this series, nothing is ever quite what it seems.  From the first chapter, when Jackaby and Rook are called in to look at a woman's cat who has inexplicably turned into a fish, to the bones of the "dinosaur," to the unseen creature that keeps attacking the livestock in Gad's Valley - there is always something that is just not right; something that just does not properly fit.  And ultimately (as with any good mystery), the elements eventually tie together and lead to a very explosive finally (in this book, literally!).

Ritter throws in a number of supporting cast, some of whom are extremely likable, some of whom the reader will detest and want to knock onto their kiester.  The big trapper, Hank Hudson, is a Hagrid-type character - lovable, huge, and with a soft spot for Jackaby and Rook.  The reporter, Nellie Fuller, is definitely a go-getter - determined, strong, and unwilling to let any man hold her back.  And then there are the two archaeologists - Owen Horner, who is a bit of a prankster and never takes himself seriously, and Lewis Lamb, who is such a tyrant when it comes to his work that he is seen as a curmudgeon - who are competing for the right to study the bones found in Gad's Valley and making it very difficult for Jackaby and Rook to investigate.

One never knows quite what to expect with a Jackaby adventure, and this book is certainly no different.  There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader on his/her toes, and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed Rook being reunited with the shape-shifter, Charlie the Cop.  It is interesting to note that despite the time period of the novel (late 19th century), Ritter portrays Rook as a very independent woman capable of her own thoughts, conclusions, and determination, and her impulsive decision near the end of the novel definitely had me cheering!

While the conclusion is satisfying, it still leaves some unanswered questions, which, along with the underlying sub-plots concerning the mysterious man in black and the unanswered questions of the past of Jenny, the resident ghost at Jackaby's house, leave one wanting for the next book in the series (and thankfully, I already have it in hand, so I don't have to wait long to read it and find out what happens next!).  This is most certainly a series I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good read, regardless of what genre you like.

RATING:  10 rare Stymphalian birds out of 10 for filling the gap left by the lack of Dresden Files books with well-written, smile-bringing stories of mystery and supernatural.

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