I'm now a little sad that I have to wait until August for the next installment. I'm even more sad to learn that this series will only be a quartet because it's a great series.
Below the cut is a non-spoilery review for a book filled with mystery, dinosaurs, platonic partnerships, romantic relationships, and a pretty well-drawn female narrator.
Back for their second adventure, Abigail Rook and her employer R.F. Jackaby are called away to Gad's Valley by policeman Charlie Cane. Recently excavated dinosaur bones have gone missing but even more concerning is an unidentifiable beast that is running around, killing animals and humans alike. For Abigail who is the daughter of a prominent paleotologist and a keen student in the field as well, the chance to examine a dig is a dream come true. But since this is a case with Jackaby, nothing goes the way one expects.
The sequel to Jackaby builds on Abigail's acclimation to Jackaby's world and the development of her own skills as an investigator of the supernatural. Again, any lingering concerns I had about how Abigail would be written was put to rest fairly quickly. She isn't a weak, lovesick, helpless waif nor is she a badass Mary Sue. She's somewhere in between which made her a likable, realistic, and very relatable narrator. She's becoming more savvy to how to operate as Jackaby's assistant but still has moments of doubting herself, which all feel very realistic. I also thought the balance Ritter struck between Abigail as a modern woman for her times who wants to work rather than get married and Abigail as someone who has a raging crush on Charlie was nicely done. Maybe I'm just biased because I totally ship Abigail and Charlie, but I didn't think her having these moments of awkwardness with him because of her feelings diminished her in anyway as a person.
I was also a little concerned that Jackaby would end up taking on the role of mansplainer to Abigail. And while he does give his input on certain things more related to her personal life, it never crosses a boundary where he comes across as patronizing or dismissive. It has more the flavor of the early Sherlock and Joan partnership where Sherlock tries to chime in supportively about Joan's emotional and relationship dilemmas but also makes a slightly pained face of "how much longer do I have to keep talking to you about this?" Because I can't quite figure out how old Jackaby and Abigail are supposed to be, I have a hard time gauging if the power differential between them is also age-based. Certainly as a man during the Victorian era, the expert on the supernatural, and technically the employer of Abigail, the power tips in favor of Jackaby. However, he invites collaboration with Abigail and expects from her what he would expect from any intelligent, competent person regardless of their sex or age.
Beastly Bones features way more of the investigative element which can either bore people or excite them. I was fairly neutral about the actual plot but was more than entertained by all the main characters plus the side ones. The book ends on a "Dun dun duhhhhh!!!" note that will clearly fuel the third installment. For which I'm eagerly waiting.