Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter

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5 out of 5 stars.

I was given an ARC of Beastly Bones.

These books have everything I want in a story. They are super funny, clever, adventurous, and well written. They should be read by everyone.

Abigail has just arrived in America, having escaped her parents and her very boring life, and is looking for work and, possibly, adventure. She manages to stumble upon both her second day in town. A mysterious young gentleman named R.F. Jackaby has put an ad in the paper for an assistant and Abigail applies. Instead of an interview, she gets pulled along on a case where the victims’ blood is mysteriously vanishing and the deaths are heralded by banshee wails. Jackaby turns out to be brilliant but is often distracted by the supernatural that he has a knack for seeing. Abigail provides a much-needed ballast for his more eccentric tendencies. Jackaby’s house/ office is also inhabited by the ghost of a former owner, a duck who was one of Jackaby’s former assistants and refuses to turn back into a human, and a frog who emits noxious gases if stared at.

The writing is both clever and hilarious throughout. I laughed, giggled and guffawed my way through these books. Fans of Jonathan Stroud will recognize this type of narrative voice, full of good humour and witticisms.

The plot is brilliant. It can only be solved by the reader beforehand if they have some knowledge of obscure fairy tale creatures and have a eye for details that you would need in solving traditional mysteries. Never has a childhood reading Andrew Lang served me so well!

Jackaby is set in urban London and Beastly Bones is set in the rural countryside at a paleontological dig site. It is a great contrast. and you have a supporting cast of weird and strange people and creatures for both books.

In the second book, Jackaby and Abigail are off to a dinosaur dig where bones are going missing. This would not normally be a case for Jackaby, but Abigail grew up in her father’s shadow and has always wanted to go on a dig. On the plus side for Jackaby, something supernatural starts tearing up the countryside and his interest is piqued. Further conflict is added by the presence of two duelling palaeontologists, a hunter who is interested in supernatural prey, and a cop who can shape shift into a dog. Also, there is a cat who has turned into a fish.

The best part of these books for me is the interactions between Jackaby and Abigail. Jackaby is a real Sherlock Holmes character. Brilliant in his own niche, but fairly incompetent outside of it and somewhat socially unaware. He has some great lines and Abigail takes it most of it in stride. Ritter really knows how to bring out the humour in both situations and dialogue.

Everything about these books is marvellous. The writing pulls you along, the characters make you feel for them and the fantasy and mystery genres blend seamlessly. Read these or forever live in regret