In the third installment of the series, we finally find ourselves facing the bewildering and ominous menace that has been lurking from the first pages of Jackaby, and Beastly Bones. Also, pieces and clues are found about the mysterious murder of Jenny Cavanaugh, the local ghoul in 926 Augur Lane, in time for the 10th anniversary. However, a recent murder presents itself with an odd resemblance to that of Miss Cavanaugh, and it is up to the eccentric R.F. Jackaby and resourceful Abigail Rook to find the answers to their growing questions. That is, before they get killed by the unknown forces they have been facing long before they even imagined.
Every time I grab a book of this series by William Ritter, I like to think I am ready for whatever may come. But I’m always blown away by the creativity and twists Ritter throws to the readers. Each book surpasses its predecessor with its rich and unique characters, settings, puzzling plots and crimes sprinkled with the paranormal and fantastical. I didn’t like at first how Jackaby (1st book) was described like Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who, but there is no better description than that, adding to the equation Supernatural.
There is a brilliant cast of characters constant in the books. From the enigmatic Jackaby, intelligent and cunning Abigail Rook, the lovely and fierce Jenny Cavanaugh, the adorable Charlie Cane/Barker, to Douglas the once human but now comical duck. Each character stands on its own with their ever-developing arcs, it’s impossible to not hold them close to your heart. In Ghostly Echoes, there are also other secondary characters that shine, some recurring ones like Hatun, Commissioner Marlowe, to other lovely surprises and new characters as well. I may be biased (or not), but I have always liked Ritter’s characters, from the most important ones to the more fleeting ones because they feel genuine.
However, I had a little problem in a part of the novel, something that has never happened. This next paragraph is a minor spoiler (not related to the plot in this book). **MINOR SPOILER** Jackaby and Abigail are on their way home when they encounter a young woman being assaulted by some men. The words are never spoken, but an interpretation of the text suggests this person is a transgender woman. The scene was interesting, because we get a glimpse at Jackaby’s personality in a deeper way, as well as a message and quote I liked: “It is the ugliest aspect of human nature that we fear what is most different from ourselves with such violent contempt,” (p. 70, hardcover). However, the whole exchange and the character, Lydia Lee, felt odd. It didn’t seem to fit in with the story’s plot or the current situation at hand. If I skipped 9 pages to the next chapter, I wouldn’t have missed anything. The character appears once more, but other than the two small exchanges, Lydia doesn’t play an important role. I kept thinking “Will this be the villain? What will she do? Why is this happening?” in the way detective novels work, and nothing happened. It could be a manner of preference, but it just did not add up. It was still interesting. I hope that at least that loose end here is worked with in The Dire King. **END OF MINOR SPOILER**
As detective fiction novels go, the Jackaby series is my most favorite in contemporary fiction. You see the classical elements and nods to some of those famous detectives and their creators (Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler, Sam Spade by Dashiell Hammet, C. Auguste Dupin by Edgar Allan Poe, and so on). In addition to the rules of the genre being followed, Ritter breaks them and makes this his completely, which is what makes this series so enjoyable and easy to read.
If you have never read a detective novel, or don’t like the classic ones, this is the way to go. Danger waiting to pounce in every corner, witty humor, and romance thrown in-between, Jackaby and co. have something in-store for every taste. If you have not read this book or its previous ones, do it. You won’t regret it.
Rating: 5 stars