Beastly Bones by William Ritter – Review


Published: September 22, 2015

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

Pages: 296 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0


“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.

Beastly Bones is the second novel in William Ritter’s Jackaby series. It’s very Sherlockian, with a supernatural twist and the books are a great deal of fun to read despite a somewhat shallow depth. If done well and made darker in tone, they would probably make great movies. On to the review!

Once again, I enjoyed reading about the characters, though I feel the secondary characters that were introduced were shallow in comparison with what they could have been. Perhaps this a result of the novels shorter length and my sometimes unreasonable expectations acquired from reading enormous books overflowing in detail and development. I also expected additional development from Abigail, Jackaby, and Charlie but they just stayed the same. Abigail is more confident in her abilities as an assistant and she had the opportunity to go to a major paleontological dig site, which makes her the most interesting out of the three characters.

The plot of Beastly Bones is as it implies, focused on some rather exciting bones found at a New England farm. Events spiral quickly out of control and there are murders and mysterious foot prints that may have come from a living relative of the beast in the ground. As I mentioned in my review of Jackaby, the whodunit is as obvious in Beastly Bones as it was in the debut novel. I had suspicions from the very beginning and at the end I was proved to be correct. This is a young adult novel and as such, I cannot hold it to quite the same standard as I would an adult speculative fiction novel, however I was a little bit disappointed. This author seems to focus more on the events that lead to the characters solving the mystery rather than the mystery itself. As I mentioned, it wasn’t all that hard for me to figure out and there wasn’t a significant effort to obfuscate the solution.

All in all, Beastly Bones was an entertaining and slightly outlandish book with a fun set of characters and a bit of mystery. Or perhaps I should say strange circumstances and events. I do think that the next book has the potential to markedly better plot wise based on the very last segment of the book. We know that Jenny, the ghost residing in Jackaby’s home was murdered but it was unsolved and it seems that the next book will focus on solving that mystery. There are some loose threads that I think will be tied up in book three and will probably relate to Jenny’s murder. Perhaps Douglas will also decide he no longer wants to be a duck- who knows!


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