Friday 18 August 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th August 2017 - "The Murderer's Ape" by Jakob Wegelius (Pushkin Press)

Our Chapter Book of the Week this week is a dark mystery with tons of originality, suspense and drama. Let's meet "The Murderer's Ape" by Jakob Wegelius...
I've long been a fan of noir. Film noir, scratchy old 1930s and 1940s movies that have those blaring jarring trumpets in the soundtrack, usually a lantern-jawed detective hero, fabulous female leads and a plot as twisty and turny as a piglet's tail.

Sometimes we spot books in our review pile that we instantly know we're going to love, purely from a glance at the cover and so it was with "The Murderer's Ape".

This huge tome is more suitable for older kids for sure, it's dark and mysterious and one weighty tome (you'd need a gorilla sidekick just to pick up the hardback version I'll wager).

So let's dive in and take a look.

"The Murderer's Ape" tells the story of Sally Jones, who just happens to be a gorilla. Sally is best friends with Henry Koskela, known simply as "The Chief", a boat captain who enjoys a simple life on the river.

There are great times, there are lean times but Sally and The Chief are inseparable and they love their easygoing existence on the water.

That is, until, a dark plot unravels as a result of a deal gone wrong. Taking on a job shipping mysterious packages to a midnight rendezvous deep in the jungle, Sally and Chief soon realise the deal is dirty, guns are involved and when bandits force them to scupper their beloved ship, it's just the start of a horrible turn of events that sees The Chief arrested for murder, and Sally on the run.

Finding a kindly singer and seamstress who offers Sally a place to stay, the plucky Gorilla is determined to prove The Chief's innocence - but it's not so easy to be heard when you're a mute that no one else understands.

It's so atmospheric this - and I read it long and late into the night as I just could not put it down. It might feel slightly odd to read possibly due to translation but the story still flows, and Sally feels like one of the most original protagonists in years.

It's definitely for the latter end of middle grade / early YA readers, particularly those who love stuff like "Murder Most Unladylike" or perhaps even riotous comic adventures like Tintin (which is, quite rightly, cited as an influence on this story). I kept thinking back to my early 90s obsession with all things Jeunet and Caro as there are times when my mind went off and drew up scenes from this book in their trademark surreal and dark style seen in movies like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children.

Even if you're somehow miraculously unaffected by the rich and descriptive story and can't quite visualise it in the same way, there are fantastic monochrome illustrations ushering in every chapter, and tons of character illustrations to let you know who's who, and to help see if you can spot the thoroughly rotten characters from the outset.

But be warned, this is a big book full of surprises and awesome twists, so nothing's quite as you'd expect, and just when it feels like Sally's story might come to a happy ending, everything changes once again. But do see it through to the end, it's so worth it,  just brilliant.

"The Murderer's Ape" by Jakob Wegelius is out on 7th September, published by Pushkin Press (kindly supplied for review).