Heartfelt and unique, The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius is children's literature at its finest


Title: The Murderer's Ape
Series: N/A
Author: Jakob Wegelius
Genre: Middle-Grade
Publication: April 16th 2014
Pages: 640 pages, Hardback
Source: Thank you to Pushkin Children's Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 4.5/5 cupcakes!




'I don't know when I last read a book with such pure and unalloyed pleasure. It's ingenious, it's moving, it's charming, it's beautiful, it's exciting, and most importantly the characters are people I feel I know like old friends. I thank Jakob Wegelius wholeheartedly for giving me several hours of joy' -- Philip Pullman
Sally Jones is not only a loyal friend, she's an extraordinary individual. In overalls or in a maharaja's turban, this unique gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understanding everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. A job they are offered pays big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder.
For Sally Jones this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief's name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets. 
Oh, this book. It was charming and whimsical and filled with fallible, yet lovable characters and a beautifully woven plot that took me on an adventure with love and justice at the heart of it. I wanted to read this delectable novel from the moment I heard about it. Not only is it a visually stunning book, but it has such a distinctive, interesting story line that I knew I would fall in love with. The Murderer’s Ape is about a very unique gorilla called Sally Jones, who works as an engineer on the ship, The Hudson Queen with her human friend, Henry Koskela. She doesn’t speak in a language that we can comprehend, but she understands what humans say. One day her and Koskela are offered a job that will pay extraordinary well, however, deception and malice occurs in the deal and Koskela is wrongly accused of murder. Belittled and forced into hiding, Sally Jones has nowhere to go. Settling on the roof of a house in Lisbon, she hears an angelic voice singing. The voice belongs to Ana Molina, who kindly takes Sally Jones in and makes her feel at home. This is the start of her journey to survive and prove her friend innocent. It starts in a Lisbon port and meanders through oceans and India until she finally finds her way back home. She’ll face betrayal, threats and heartbreak on her quest, but she’ll also experience the goodness and kindness that humans are capable of.

This was such a beautiful story. It was built on the power of friendship, love and justice and the strength it gives us to tackle storms we face. It was filled with characters who were flawed yet radiated kindness and love. It explored sensitive issues in a gentle manner. Not only was it richly layered with emotion and heart, it was a classic adventure story. In this murder mystery adventure there was treason, stowaways, and a journey on a sailboat across the seas to reclaim the innocence of a man wrongly accused - EXCITING!!!

I absolutely adored the characters. After finishing the book, I wanted to dive right back in and spend time with the characters. They felt so real. They were complex and genuine. They were all so vividly unique and they saturated the text with warmth and love.

Sally Jones was a brilliant protagonist. She was so incredibly smart and would go through treacherous trials to even have a chance of saving her friend. I loved how the author gave each character so much emotion and complexity. Before reading this book, I thought that this book would mainly focus on plot and not delve into the emotional states of the characters. I was wrong. The author described Sally Jones' heartbreak, terror, happiness and hope that wrenched at my heartstrings. The author mentioned the bouts of depression Sally Jones would enter into, as well as symptoms of PTSD that she experienced after what she’d seen and gone through. I admire the author for touching on those things in a children’s book in an honest, yet uplifting way. I loved the vast amount of emotion that was covered in this story - it made it that much more touching.

I absolutely adored the friends Sally Jones made. They were dynamic and flawed, yet so kind and generous. Sally Jones and Koskela’s friendship was so sweet. The care they had for each other and the lengths they would go to in order to help the other were stunning. I loved reading about how they would work on the boat together in compatible silence. They were best friends and companions. It was a beautiful portrayal of the friendship that can be formed by man and animal. 

I loved Ana Molina and Signor Fidardo. I loved Ana's kindness and gentleness. I loved Signor Fidardo's determination, care and dilligent attitude. I loved the friendship between Ana, Signor Fidardo and Sally Jones. It was so heartfelt and emotional. Their care and love for one another radiated off of the pages, and some of my favourite scenes in the book were the Sunday nights they'd spend in Ana's apartment where she sung and Signor Fidardo played the guitar and Sally Jones felt as if she belonged. The scenes were vivid and captured the harmonious serenity felt when in the presence of true friends. I loved the traits these characters possessed: kindness, acceptance and selflessness. I loved the evolution of the friendships in this book too. Signor Fidardo began disliking Sally Jones (or perhaps that's too strong a word...maybe more suspicious of her), but then grew to admire and respect and love her. I adored how most of the people who initially disregarded her or had hardened their hearts towards Sally Jones began to adore her after realising her kindness, sensitivity and intelligence. 

I appreciated that the author wrote the secondary characters with depth as well, such as the maharajah and Alphonse Morro. They were characters compiled of varying shades of black and white, and I loved how Wegelius showed their good and bad qualities, portraying them as complex humans instead of 2D characters whose main purpose is helping the protagonist achieve something or the other. I deeply admire the depth of all of the characters featured in this novel.

I adored the plot, writing and illustrations too. The Murderer's Ape is a long book. My edition is 640 pages. It's not a fast-paced read. It's languid and deliberate; it made the reading experience feel vividly real. I loved that this book was long. It allowed me to feel as if I was thoroughly involved with the characters' lives, especially Sally Jones's as she settled into the different places and tried to prove Koskela innocent. The plot was an adventure and it took me on a journey and completely swept me up - I loved it. The writing was simple which had a greater impact on me. Sally Jones's intense emotions, her thoughts and her actions were expressed clearly, in a raw and real manner. I adored the illustrations too - they transported me even further into the vivid setting Wegelius created.

The Murderer's Ape is captivating, emotional and utterly enchanting. Written with sensitivity and heart, this book wrenched at my heartstrings. It catapulted me from jubilation to sadness and back again. I adored the themes of friendship, love, kindness and empathy that were woven throughout this story, saturating the text with layered emotion that anyone of all ages will appreciate. The protagonist's voice is authentic and completely lovable. Many of the characters are extraordinarily real, fallible yet so gorgeously kind and compassionate. The plot is detailed and takes the reader on a journey from a port in Lisbon, across oceans and to a maharajah's court in exotic India, making all the sights and sounds of the journey tangible to the reader. All these things combined resulted in a devastatingly beautiful and wonderfully emotional novel that has made its mark on my heart. Read it. 

I give it: 4.5/5 CUPCAKES!



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