Jackaby by William Ritter – Review

Cover- Jackaby

Published: September 16, 2014

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

Pages: 299 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0


“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.

Jackaby is a story reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, but with a supernatural twist that adds an excellent bit of fun. I found this on BookOutlet and I was intrigued by the cover and the description, SO I bought it and I sure am glad! This was a really entertaining read, being a little mysterious, a little humorous, and a lot late 1800’s.

As I mentioned, the story was a lot of fun to read but sometimes I’m really terrible at explaining why. Here goes nothing… First of all, I adore books set in the 1800’s- I don’t know if it’s technically Victorian or Edwardian or something completely different, but I like it. The imagery I get is mysterious and romantic and so different from present day that it’s basically a separate world. Jackaby is set primarily in the United States which is also really unique for a story set in this time period because books like this usually end up set in England. The plot is centered on mystery and murder and the supernatural, so that’s a win. Urban fantasy mysteries are usually very modern and almost industrial in nature if that makes sense- Lots of grime with our crime- but Jackaby proves to be much more quaint due to its setting. The only thing I have a quibble with is the fairly shallow world-building. Sure, we get a little bit of description but not much in the way of deep understanding in regards to the society. Also, I figured out who committed the crimes like a third of the way into the book, which was disappointing and satisfying at the same time.

What this story lacked in comprehensive worldbuilding was entirely made up for by the characters, which were excellent. Abigail Rook is a runaway looking for more adventure than her very strict environment allowed for and it’s her perspective that we’re given when reading the book. She’s delightful in all ways and proves to be quite a clever young lady. R.F. Jackaby, the man for whom the book is named is a detective of a most unusual sort. He’s astonishingly odd, wearing a hideous magical knit hat and going on about auras, spirits, and such. However, he’s looking for a new assistant and Abigail fits the description. Both are immediately drawn into a gruesome murder case and they’ve got to stop the murderer before they find themselves similarly dispatched. Abigail and Jackaby are very lively, vibrant characters and the secondary cast is equally interesting.

This was a really delightful book (murders aside) and I think it would be perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Supernatural, and perhaps even the Dresden Files provided you don’t mind reading YA lit. I only wish the criminal hadn’t been so obvious in this one, though I did enjoy seeing how the story played out and the particular type of association with the supernatural was unexpected. I hadn’t heard of Jackaby prior to finding it on BookOutlet, so I’m here to share with my readers. I love finding awesome new books, just like every other book worm out there!


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