Series: Jackaby #1
Published by Algonquin Books on 2014-09-16
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mysteries, Young Adult
My content rating: YA (Some violence)
“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
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.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
I’ve heard Jackaby described as a fun cross between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, and I think that description really does do it justice. It’s Sherlock Holmes with a paranormal twist.
The book takes place in the late 1800’s and is told from the point of view of Abigail, a young woman who has come to America looking for adventure. Abigail has spent her life wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps – he’s an archaeologist and is often off on exciting digs. But her family has told her in no uncertain terms that she should settle down and get married rather than pursue her dreams. Well, Abigail takes things into her own hands and ends up in America. She needs to find work in order to survive, so when she stumbles upon Jackaby, an eccentric detective who claims to see the paranormal, she doesn’t shy away. In the end, she finds that working with Jackaby brings her all of the adventure she was searching for … and more!
What I enjoyed:
- Abigail. I loved the character of Abigail! She is just the type of female character from this time period that we like to see – spunky, witty and down-to-earth. She doesn’t shy away from a challenge – even a rather insane challenge – and she doesn’t give up. She’s tough, but at the same time, she remains feminine.
- Jackaby. Jackaby is sort of a bumbling, eccentric man who most people try to steer clear of. He’s seen as a bit of a crackpot, but people have figured out that he does get the job done. I loved his concern for Abigail – he knows that what he does is dangerous and tries to shield her from it a bit, but he’s only half-hearted about it because he sees right away that she’s extremely competent. Jackaby has a sort of accidental wit – he doesn’t realize that he’s being amusing, which makes him even more so.
- The paranormal world. My favorite part of the book was definitely the paranormal elements, especially the paranormal world that exists right inside Jackaby’s home. Jackaby has some unusual roommates, and it was really fun to see Abigail discover them. I loved the paranormal surprises in this book – fun elements that made it more interesting and at least one character who I didn’t peg as supernatural until well into the book. These little surprises along the way made the book fun and kept my interest going. There was also a supernatural twist in the middle (or perhaps last quarter?) of the book that I wasn’t expecting – loved it!
- It’s a mystery. Okay, this can hardly be seen as a negative – except that, for me, it is. I imagine that fans of mysteries and paranormal would see this as a five star book. For me, it was only four stars because the Sherlock Holmes type mystery just doesn’t really appeal to me. The addition of the paranormal made it fun enough that I still really enjoyed it, but there were a few times that I got bored with the story. I also figured out the killer really early on, though I hadn’t imagined all of the paranormal details. Still, the fact that I did really enjoy this book despite all that speaks volumes!
If you enjoy historical fiction, mysteries and the paranormal with just a tiny hint of romance, then this is the perfect book for you! If you appreciate any of those genres separately, then I would also suggest giving Jackaby a try because it really does have something for everyone. Overall, I give the book 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Reports of William Ritter’s birthplace are unreliable and varied, placing his hometown either in a series of mysterious Catacombs in Malta or in a quiet town in Oregon. His parents, it can be confirmed, raised him to value intelligence, creativity, and individuality. When reading aloud, they always did the voices.
At the University of Oregon, William made questionable choices, including willfully selecting classes for the interesting stories they promised, rather than for any practical application. When he wasn’t frivolously playing with words, he earned credits in such meaningful courses as Trampoline, Juggling, and Seventeenth Century Italian Longsword. These dubious decisions notwithstanding, he regrets nothing and now holds degrees in English and education with certificates in creative writing and folklore.
He currently teaches high school language arts, including reading and writing, mythology and heroes. He is a proud husband and father. When reading aloud, he always does the voices.
Jackaby is his first novel. It was born in the middle of the night and written on two different hemispheres. It has survived typhoons and hurricanes and was fostered into publication through the patient care of many hands.