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Review: Jackaby

by William Ritter



‘Marlowe is a good man and a competent detective, but he notices what anyone would notice: the extraordinary. He spots bloodstains and mad men in red pajamas. I see the things more extraordinary still, the things no one else sees. But you – you notice mailboxes and waste-baskets and…and people. One who can see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed, Abigail Rook.’ P.69

Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Published By: Algonquin Young Readers
Book: #1 of Jackaby
Genre: YA, Historical-Fiction, Paranormal Fantasy, Mystery
Found: on my shelf
Rating: 3.5 Voodoos

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.

- Netgalley

I can see why this has been published as a Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who novel. It has all the quirkiness and quick wit of both but with the paranormal aspect of one and the mystery of the other. It’s remarkably clever. It’s just a shame I chose to read it after The Diviner’s by Libba Bray, because it was so hard not to compare them. Both The Diviner’s and Jackaby are historically based stories with a paranormal twist, but in comparison, Jackaby lacked the sophistication and complexity that the Diviner’s had. It just didn’t have the same absorbing atmosphere or detailed descriptions of the surrounding world. Perhaps this is because Jackaby is aimed at a slightly younger audience? On the plus side though, it was a quick read and it had funny situations that actually had me laughing out loud from time to time.

Jackaby is a distinctly unique character. He’s not always loveable because he speaks without really considering how his thoughts may come across to others but this leads to quite a few comical scenes which make his blunders kind of adorable rather than irritating. I liked the idea of him having a coat with every pocket bulging from all the bric-a-brac he insists on carrying around with him. I know people like this and they are quite fascinating, if a little odd. I liked that Abigail was ordinary. There wasn’t anything particularly special about her, she was just a nice person with a wicked sense of humour, who was determined and focused. This was quite refreshing, considering the YA paranormal scene is usually littered with ‘Chosen One’s’. This reminded me of Dr Who because Abigail is basically the companion, who is there to ground Jackaby and keep him from jumping into everything head first.

The story itself was a little slow and I found it rather predictable. I think I was able to guess the villain about 50 pages in. And I was spot on with who would be suspected of being the villain. This was a little disappointing but I don’t regret reading this. Mainly because the writing was so good, but also because It’s just the beginning and I can see a lot of possibilities now that the main characters have been released to the world. I think this would be a wonderful middle grader’s book, especially for those just beginning to fall in love with the paranormal or mystery genre.

Definitely worth a read, and I know someone who will just love this book…. (*cough* Kerren *cough*)



2 comments on “Review: Jackaby

  1. Rachel @ Isytria

    I thought it was a little disappointing too but I loved that Abigail was ordinary too. I saw that you’re reading Beastly Bones on GR so I’m excited to see what you think of it! I haven’t read it yet.

    1. Ms4Tune

      Hi Rachel, I’ve just finished Beastly Bones and I thought it was much better. I’m just going to write my review now, so check back tomorrow! :)

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