Author: William Ritter
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
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“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 have had my eye on Jackaby for over a year, at least. The cover is just gorgeous and the synopsis is intriguing. For some reason, though, I was scared to actually read it. I think part of it was that there's no romance, which is something I really prefer to have in my YA. I was also a little iffy about a book that was described as "Doctor Who meets Sherlock." Coming out on the other side, I am glad I read it, although it wasn't quite as incredible as I'd hoped it would be.
This isn't so much Jackaby's story as it is the story of Abigail Rook who is new to New Fiddleham and in immediate need of a job. She stumbles across Jackaby by accident and basically stumbles into becoming his assistant. I really enjoyed Abigail and found her to be a refreshingly normal heroine. She didn't have any super magical powers or amazing skills other than being an intelligent young woman, and I really enjoyed that after a long string of (admittedly incredible) fantasy novels.
Jackaby and Abigail together were so much fun to read about! I loved the relationship between the two of them, platonic as it was. There was also a great cast of minor characters including a really interesting ghost and duck duo. Despite there being no -real- romance in this story, there was a teensy bit of romantic feelings thrown in for good measure and, although I'm not sure there was a real need for it, I did find it to be cute and believable.
The plot of Jackaby had a very whodunit atmosphere and it kind of felt like being in an episode of Scooby Doo, but with legit supernatural stuff instead of a guy in a mask. I really enjoyed this addition to the more classic Sherlock Holmes tales and did enjoy the way the fantastical elements were worked in, although it did make the whole read feel a little more silly than I might have expected from this kind of mystery. New Fiddleham also offered a fantastic atmosphere to the mystery.
Overall, I enjoyed Jackaby, although it isn't necessarily the kind of book I would usually read. One thing that I did find odd was that Abigail repeatedly described herself as an adult, all the other characters were adults, but this was a young adult novel. I think this may be the first time I've encountered a YA book with an all-adult cast. As I've said, it was a little more silly than what I would usually read, and it actually was a little slow in places, but the mystery was fun and every now and then I enjoy a lighter read.