Actually, it’s mostly just the gorilla. But while reading this book, I was reminded so strongly of two other great, complicated, similar stories that I’m including all three in my intro. This one’s just for me, people.
The Murderer’s Ape is shelved with the teen books in our public library, but I don’t remember any teens or children in it. (It’s kind of unusual to have a middle grade or teen novel populated almost entirely by adults.) The book is narrated by Sally Jones, a gorilla who understands human languages and is something of a mechanical genius. She also plays chess, reads and writes, types, and appreciates Portugese Fado music. She travels the world and solves tricky and dangerous mysteries. In 588 pages, there is a lot to keep track of – political intrigues, lost loves, the majaraja’s wives and mother, untended graves, how to build an accordion. I could feel the real world falling away as I read, leaving Sally Jones and her friends and the quest to free an innocent man.
It was a bit of a slow start, but once it got going, it reminded me of Timothée de Fombelle’s Vango series, which I happened across a few years ago and was just thinking of re-reading not long ago. Between Sky and Earth begins with Vango (a seminarian about to become a priest) escaping from the police just as he’s about to make his vows in Notre Dame de Paris. It’s an absolutely wonderful adventure, crossing oceans in zeppelins, avoiding Nazis, protecting the innocent, revealing corruption and honoring friendship. The story continues in A Prince Without a Kingdom. Find them if you’re looking for an epic escape.
And then there’s an even more obscure story, The Saxonian Affair. Some years ago, my husband told my son stories during the time they spent together commuting, always coming to a cliffhanger as they pulled into the garage. In it, a detective who isn’t really a detective finds out he looks exactly like Prince Ruprecht of Saxonia. Marco’s adventures take him across several continents at different points. We finally self-published the first group of stories just for us. Once in a while, I tell my husband he should really write down the rest of them, since the world (mostly me) is really missing out on the lesser known characters of Alice Dodds and General Tostito. But at least we’ve got Marco, Princess Marie, and all the others – it means I love the Vango stories and The Murderer’s Ape even more. So, I might be biased. No, really, I am biased, but I still think you’ll love this one.
The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius