Jackaby by William Ritter

Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date:September 16th 2014
Pages: Hardcover, 304 pages
Source: BEA 2014

Summary from Goodreads:
“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 love Sherlock Holmes (especially the BBC show!) and have tried to get into Doctor Who but have had little success there.  I was hoping that Jackaby was going to be a mix of the two with a dark and haunted New England setting and I am here to report that it was in fact an absolute mix of both Sherlock and Doctor Who. Unfortunately, I was TOO much like Sherlock and Doctor Who for me.  I felt that Jackaby lacked some originality.

The story had the same feeling as every Sherlock Holmes movie, and especially the BBC version: a witty sarcastic main character who has unusual detective practices and generally seems crazy.  The Doctor Who comparison was seen in regards to the main female lead, Miss Rook; she was like Doctor Who's Companion. So take both of those main characters and throw in some mystery, wild paranormal/supernatural pieces and you get Jackaby.

Once I got past those very close similarities, I was able to enjoy the story more.  It was a nice standalone detective mystery with a fast paced plot.  The characters were easy to like; Jackaby is full of wit while on the other hand Miss Rook is full of surprises, being an independent female during an era where it is not socially acceptable.  Once of my favorite aspects of the story was the lack of romance, it was so nice to fully dive into the mystery without having an romance squeezed into the short book.

All in all, Jackaby was a quick enjoyable read, full of creatures, ghosts, banshees, and more.  As long as the reader knows that the story lacks some originality and is super similar to Sherlock, the book is a fast paced and enjoyable read.  
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