Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2015. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.
“Give me some credit. You don’t get far in my game with your eyes closed. I get it—who doesn’t like a man in uniform? But trust me, men are never worth it. Behind every great man is a woman who gave up on greatness and tied herself into an apron. Romance is for saps, Abbie. You’re sharp and you’ve got pluck. Don’t waste it.”
Abigail Rook and her employer, the supernatural detective R.F. Jackaby have just finished tracking down a litter of carnivorous shape-shifters that have been terrorizing New Fiddleham when they are summoned to consult on a theft out in Gad’s Valley. Abigail finds herself back in her element when the missing object turns out to be a tooth that was stolen from a recently uncovered fossil on a small farm. However, it seems that there is more than a thief on the loose in Gad’s Valley; the farmer’s wife has been murdered, and a beast no one has seen is terrorizing the local livestock. Assisted by Detective Charlie Cane and big game hunter Hank Hudson, Abigail and Jackaby set out to find the fossil, discover the murderer, and subdue the beast.
In a deft mix of mystery, humour, and historical fantasy, William Ritter follows up on Jackaby with another supernatural whodunit set in New Fiddleham and its environs. Abigail is beginning to settle in as Jackaby’s assistant when the news that fossils have been discovered in Gad’s Valley leaves her longing for her former career as an amateur paleontologist. Fortunately, the suspicious theft of a portion of the skeleton provides the perfect opportunity for her and Jackaby to investigate what turns out to be an extremely twisty and amorphous case that blends science and mythology.
Jackaby and Abigail make a great team, and while some fans are longing for the protagonists to kiss already, the fact that there is no romance, unrequited or otherwise, between them is extremely refreshing. Last year’s buzz for Jackaby touted the book as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock,” but fortunately Abigail’s relationship with her employer is more Watson to his Sherlock than companion to the Doctor. That isn’t to say, however, that there is no romantic interest in Beastly Bones. The case in Gad’s Valley brings Abigail and Jackaby back into contact with Charlie Cane, the shapeshifting police officer who had to flee New Fiddleham after his secret was exposed. However, Abigail is forced to consider what she really wants when an intrepid female reporter advises her that no career-minded woman can hope to succeed if she ties herself to a man.
In addition the missing fossil at the centre of Beastly Bones, there is evidence of a larger plot taking shape that will overarch the series. A shadowy villain appears on the periphery of the story, and the events in Gad’s Valley seem to be part of some larger design. This mysterious figure also seems to have some connection to the murder of Jenny Cavanaugh, 926 Augur Lane’s resident ghost, which volume three seems primed to investigate.
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