Beastly Bones by William Ritter

With the introductions and worldbuilding out of the way in first novel Jackaby, Beastly Bones hits the ground running and unfolds a large, series-long mystery to solve in future novels. Yes, we still have a book-length smaller arc; but this sequel incorporates events from the first story with clues strewn about in the second to intimate there is a larger mystery afoot, indeed. Those worried that this series will be an improbable ‘monster of the week in New Fiddleham’ need not worry: Ritter casts a wider net with Beastly Bones that takes Jackaby and Abigail to the countryside. And as with the first book, we’re given at the end clues to the mystery to be solved in book 3.

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Story: Abigail is finally getting used to living in the eccentric Jackaby townhouse. But ghost Jenny is acting oddly and an odd murder has brought Inspector Marlowe reluctantly to seek the pair’s help. Abigail is thrilled to discover it involves dinosaur bones (the pursuit of her paleontologist father, after all) and Jackaby reluctantly agrees to leave New Fiddleham for Gad’s Valley. Add in an extinct monster (and it isn’t a dinosaur!), a metal eating bird, quarrelling paleontologists, confused land owner, and a very sweet and cute were-canine acquaintance – and you have quite a tale!

Ritter didn’t disappoint with Beastly Bones, giving us more character depth and growing them organically as Abigail, Jackaby, Jenny, and even Charlie get to know each other better. I especially appreciate that the Jackaby character is eccentric but not a fool; too often a character such as his operates on a shallow and stupid plane simply to provide ‘fish-out-of-water’ jokes other characters can play off. His eye-rolling and subtle digs play well – especially his distaste for Abigail’s ‘romantic interests’ with Charlie.

New and interesting characters are introduced and I’m hoping they won’t be jettisoned in future volumes, which happens so often. Fortunately, Marlowe and Charlie are back in this book and so the story really flows smoothly from the first volume. A short story, The Map, takes place between the first and second volume, also provides more insight into Jackaby’s character and is well worth reading before taking up Beastly Bones.

Although labeled Middle Grade, this is sharply written enough to be enjoyed by adults as well. The story is fairly short, doesn’t really lag anywhere, and followed a similar structure as the first book. I greatly look forward to the next in the series (especially after the last few pages told us where we would go). Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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