Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel by William Ritter (3 out of 5)
Last September, I got ahold of a copy of Jackaby, the first book in a new young adult series by William Ritter. My first thoughts after I read the back of that and saw the author photo? The author looks like Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears QB. I silently said a prayer for the author. Then I dived into the book, ironically enough, I suppose, on opening day of the NFL season 2014. The Bears played Buffalo, the Bears should have won that game, but ultimately lost (we won’t discuss how I feel about the Bears starting QB). William Ritter? Was a WIN from the word go. That was my favorite young adult book last year. I have read more young adult this year, but have only a few far between favorites. When I got a copy of Beastly Bones, the newest Jackaby book, from Lauren at Algonquin (thank you Lauren!) a few months back, I put it on the table, but decided to read it on opening day of this year’s football season. I didn’t finish it, though, because I worked that day, and then came home to find my father had taken a fall while I was at work, and that led to all sorts of complications that weren’t expected… so I didn’t actually finish Beastly Bones until we were at the hospital Tuesday- two days after- when my sister and I were there with him for many hours. When I finished it, well, I set it down with a heavy sigh. While it is, as always, a pleasure to dive into R.F. Jackaby, his assistant Abagail Rook, and their merry band of unique supporting characters, this book was missing a snap, crackle, and pop that the first one had. This book seemed to stand on end waiting for something to happen. The main characters- or characters of doubtful moral fabric- took up a lot of time grandstanding, and there wasn’t as much interaction between Jackaby and Rook as there was in the first book. Remember, these two are still getting used to the other and with Jackaby’s quirks, well, that may take a few novels. This time around, they’re in up to their necks in several different oddball happenings. First up- a litter of kittens that are really shape-shifters in disguise (and outfitted with goldfish fins, among other oddities). Then, the sweet owner of the litter of kittens is found dead of a puncture wound that did in her jugular. A few towns over, Charlie Cane (the werewolf man from the first novel that Abagail has a thing for) is dealing with the disappearance of dinosaur bones at an excavation site, the mysterious death of a woman who had been involved with the dig, and a mysteriously evil monster is attacking animals and humans alike, spurning fear and fatality. Charlie gets ahold of Abagail and Jackaby and asks for them to solve this rash of strange happenings and crimes.
Do the crimes in New Fiddleham connect to the crimes in Gads Valley? Who are all these people at the excavation site, and who really has a reason to be there and not behind the theft of the bones? What happened to the woman? How many people will die before Jackaby and Rook get to the bottom of this one?
OK. One of the pros of this is that it doesn’t lag at all. There’s something going on in every chapter; which is great and also not great. Because if we wanted more of a connection between Jackaby’s cynicism and the abilities of the rookie Rook, we needed more interplay between the two. That never really happens. And that sucks, because these two are really fun when they get to work together, despite Rook’s naivety and Jackaby’s quirky strangeness. This time around it seems like Rook’s feelings toward Charlie take precedence over that of her employer and fellow do-gooder Jackaby. There are so many supporting characters here that it took an index card I had written as a bookmark to keep track of all of them. They all contribute to the storyline and resolution; I just think Ritter could have knocked down on the sheer number and had a few of these characters contribute more to the ending. The ending was something I didn’t see coming, and while I liked that a ton, the evildoer and the form it takes is that of a mythical creature that I’m not a fan of normally, so my suspicions about that mythical creature having a dark side were confirmed! However, again, this one lost me because there were too many contradictory stories going on and too many things and none of them appeared to be advancing the employee-employee relationship that needs to work between Jackaby and Rook. The characters themselves? Are still awesome and fun. You even get a little bit more of the background of Jenny the ghost. One of my complaints would be that we need more Douglas, the mallard. Yes, the mallard. You heard me.
Overall, though, still a fun ride to sit through. I just can’t give it 5 stars this time, because all of those supporting characters thrown into the fray annoyed the hell out of me, and instead of adding to whatever mysteries were going on, they splintered more of the plot development and there wasn’t enough interaction between Jackaby and Rook, which needs to be there for the series to be relevant. A good time regardless, and I await the next book with eagerness.