Jakob Wegelius’ middle-grade novel The Murderer’s Ape tells the story of Sally Jones, an anthropomorphic gorilla working closely with a man known as ‘The Chief.’ Together, the two journey all around the coastlines and rivers of Europe and its surrounding areas aboard a grand sailing ship known as the Hudson Queen. When a midnight expedition leaves the Chief falsely accused of murder, Sally Jones goes on a grand and fantastical journey across the globe to try and clear The Chief’s name, as well as set the record straight about the true events of the night that lead to the Chief’s imprisonment.
The Murderer’s Ape is told from Sally Jones’ perspective in the first person, and as soon as the reader delves into the novel’s first few chapters, they are sure to notice that Sally Jones displays many noble qualities and demonstrates many aspects of moral fibre, intelligence and cunning ability. Throughout the course of the novel, Sally Jones works alongside various benevolent characters, such as Ana Molina, Senor Fidardo and Ayesha, who are all introduced gradually as the novel progresses. Readers are sure to enjoy the fact that this novel has a range of different themes and elements woven into its five hundred and eighty-eight pages: it offers mystery, adventure, action and heart-warming senses of companionship and determination.
While this novel is quite fantastic, I did have a few issues with it: though it is a reasonably easy read despite its hefty page number, readers are sure to pick up on the fact that there are certain parts throughout the novel that seem to have no particular additions to the plot and just seem to act as a time-filler. While this novel does incorporate some very interesting and engaging scenes, certain pages containing uninteresting, and ultimately redundant, dialogue and development seem to parry the rich sense of adventure and intrigue that Wegelius manages to convey throughout the novel.
Other contributing factors to the novel’s minor downfalls include its number of chapters. At the beginning of the book, readers are given a chapter index, and they will see that the novel sports eighty chapters over the course of a novel that is just short of six hundred pages. I found these breaks in the novel unnecessary and rather short. I could not help but wonder if they were only there in order to draw younger readers away from the fact that this novel is rather hefty.
All in all, this novel is a great read for middle-grade readers, and while I do think young adult readers may enjoy this novel, it definitely is marketed and written for younger audiences, and some more advanced readers may find its writing bland and uneventful. However, this was a fantastic read and I will be sure to keep this book in the back of my mind when recommending novels to younger audiences.