Sunday, July 3, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel


After reading the first of the Jackaby books I said - The way the story is told from Abigail's point of view reminds me of Laurie King's Sherlock Holmes adventures told through the eyes of Mary Russell. The story-line itself is like mixing Holmes with a dash of Sleepy Hollow. I would love to see more books about this Holmes and Watson type arrangement that Jackaby and Miss Rook are forming. - Well, now I have been granted my wish.

For those who don't know, Jackaby is a detective of sorts who specializes in the supernatural. When he and his assistant, Abigail Rook first meet, she has just landed in America and needs a job. Taking the post as his assistant she helps with a case involving a serial killer. That was in the first book. Now she has settled into her role a bit more and is eager to prove that her employer has not made a mistake in hiring her. She is especially excited by a new case they are asked to consult on because it offers the chance to visit a paleontology dig. They will also be able to check in on the policeman who worked with them on the serial killer case; Charlie Barker has been transferred to a more rural post that happens to be the location of the dig site.

There are so many things going on in this story. The ghost who is the former owner of Jackaby's house is behaving somewhat erratically. A local woman calls them in because her cat, Mrs. Wiggles, has transformed into a fish and her kittens all have scales. There is a murder in town, as well as a dead body at the dinosaur dig. A sinister figure is seen outside their home and again at the train station as they leave for the country. A tracker/hunter who is a friend of Jackaby's shows up with a Stymphalian bird. Rival paleontologists are arguing over who is in charge of the dig. A newspaper reporter (picture a Nellie Bly clone), shows up to cover the story of a farmer finding fossils in his field. More dead bodies turn up, as well as livestock disappearing and strange footprints are left behind. What can be causing all this? Are they separate problems, or are some of these things related? And will Jackaby figure it out before more dead bodies pile up?

I enjoy the characters in the story. As I've said, Abigail reminds me of Mary Russell or perhaps Penelope from the Irene Adler stories. Seeing Jackaby's world and his work through her eyes makes it more understandable for us as readers. After all, we don't see auras or lingering traces of magic the way he does, so we have to go with what she sees and records. I also find Jackaby to be intriguing. Someone who quotes Darwin, but also wears a hat supposedly made from the fur of a yeti is bound to be interesting, even when he is being hopelessly clueless in social skills. And the things he worries about can be very amusing. Near the end of the story he is explaining his concern that there is a "criminal manufacturing paranormal mayhem." He worries that this villain could turn loose supernatural creatures such as redcaps and brownies, or even "Promote the adoption of the Dewey decimal system in libraries across the continent." When Abigail questions that last bit he tells her, "It's gaining popularity. I don't trust it." Could Jackaby be behind the rise of the Library of Congress cataloging system?

If you enjoy the mysteries of Holmes and Russell (by Laurie King), or Irene Adler (Carole Nelson Douglas), or other stories set in the late nineteenth century with some paranormal elements, then you really need to check out the Jackaby series.

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