Jackaby
Young Adult / November 23, 2016

Jackaby #1. Author: William Ritter. Summary: Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: The premise is rather hackneyed. An eccentric detective and his clever assistant, off to solve the crimes even the police fail on? It’s been done before. Kind of a lot. But the paranormal aspect is new, and Ritter’s grasp of mythology is admirable. Rather than going with the cliched paranormals that are everywhere right now, like vampires and werewolves, he’s taken in their lesser-known cousins to weave an unusual murder mystery. And even if cliched, Jackaby was an interesting, amusing, and…

The Mystery of the Wandering Caveman
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 13, 2016

A Three Investigators Mystery. Author: M. V. Carey. Summary: Three young sleuths investigate the disappearance of a caveman’s bones from a museum and uncover skulduggery at a science foundation. My Thoughts: Like all the Three Investigator books, in both a good and bad way. The books tend to blend together, all following the same pattern; but each is individually interesting. Good for younger readers, while slightly older fans of the detective story would enjoy them too. They are always completely clean, and rather than always a who-dunnit, often experiment with a more nebulous mystery. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some people are put to sleep with anesthetic against their will. There is a short scuffle with a thief, who is picked up by the police and brought to jail.  

The Whispering Skull
Young Adult / May 10, 2016

Lockwood & Co #2. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress, for a rival agency keeps swooping in on their cases. Finally Lockwood makes a deal in exasperation – the next time they have a case in common, whoever solves it first will win, and the other must post a public declaration of inferiority. And soon after, they’re both called in to help excavate a suspicious coffin. Things get strange when it’s robbed the night after and a dangerous mirror stolen – looks like they’re on the hunt. But the team is pulling in different directions, as Lucy is distracted by the whispers of the skull, George has found a new comrade in obsession, and Lockwood is irritated with them both. Can they pull together in time to solve the robbery before more people die? Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 5 hell, 5 bloody, 2 d*** Violence: Mention of past events where a ghost killed five people, then was destroyed. Character slaps a little girl. Characters find corpse of recently murdered man. Characters open the door at urgent knocking, a man with a knife in his back falls in. Brief sword fight. Explosion set in…

The Screaming Staircase
Young Adult / May 1, 2016

Lockwood & Co #1. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Lucy Carlyle is a talented teen-agent seeking employment in London. She’s a ghost-killer, one of hundreds who protect the countryside. For fifty years now ghosts have been returning to kill the living, and only the young can sense them. The only agency Lucy can get into turns out to be a small, independent organization with only three agents, called Lockwood & Co. after its head. The agency is already struggling with lack of customers, and when a case goes disastrously wrong, they’re ready to take on anything to climb back up – even the most suspicious of cases. My Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this alternative-history murder mystery. The main character is an independent, intelligent heroine – always a plus – and her companions stand out in their own right. The alt-history is well done, grounding the story solidly in a believable place and time. I’ve seen some reviews complaining about the exposition, but for me the plot seemed fast-paced, with excellent tension. A lot of shivers, and I was careful not to read it too close to the evening. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 10 hell, 4 bloody, 1 d*** Violence:…