This second novel, Beastly Bones, drags our two protagonists out to a paleontology site. Gad's Valley has its own dinosaur, unearthed on a farm and not as far below the surface as it should be found. Be ready for a mind bender on this one; missing bones, vampire like deaths, a creature that literally becomes what it eats, warring paleontologists, and two new intriguing and exciting characters are what load this book with purpose.
Nellie Fuller is a newspaper woman, who easily combats and obliterates gender stereotypes and societal/cultural expectations of women. Yes, she won my heart, and Abigail's admiration. She was flirty, brash, and full of wit and wisdom. She was not afraid to tell the men what for, to throw herself in harms way, and to voice her opinion. She pushes Abigail to reconsider herself, her desires and the reality of her hard earned freedom.
Hudson is a brawny hunter with a heart of gold, especially for very rare species. He's an old friend of Jackabys, and loyal to a fault. However, his adventurous and cocky nature puts all of the characters at risk. He is instantly likable, even as the story unfolds around him and a mistake he makes.
This novel is also used to set up the third book in the series; at the beginning there are several mentions of Jenny (Jackaby's resident ghost) and her murder. The set up involves a pale man who seems to be putting together the pieces to a puzzle that Jackaby and Abigail have no idea they are part of; two women have been murdered, drained of their blood through a puncture wound in their neck. I think the next novel is sure to be as thrilling, as spine tingling, and hair raising as the first two.
While there is a romantic subplot, between Abigail and Office Charlie Barker, it is not the main focus and is often shifted to the margins in favour of highlighting Abigail's independent nature and her bid to be a free woman, who is able to choose her occupation. Do not get me wrong, I love these two together, they are so adorable (what with all the blushing), but I enjoy the way that this love affair is being handled. That it is very much an exploration of what it means to be a woman in this time, that marriage often means being closed off from the world, losing ones freedom and value. I do love Charlie's character, both his need to protect those he cares about, which often wars with his ability to understand that Abigail needs freedom to be herself. I am excited to see how this relationship will develop; how a nomadic shapeshifter and adventure chasing woman will be able to tether each other to reality. I foresee them becoming each other's home, a place of comfort and peace outside of the ever growing and changing world.
I do not want to give too much away, but the creature in this novel is half the reason I loved it so much more than the first. Well done William Ritter, you developed a very believable way to pull mythology and folklore into this books reality. Not hard to push your mind that little bit more, when you know this world harbours so many fantastical/magical beings.
My favourite quote was from Jackaby himself, in regards to Abigail's love conundrum, "people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but - as I often and articulately postulated - people are stupid. We're not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both."