Author: William Ritter
Series: Jackaby #1
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical
Pub Date: September 16th, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
“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 didn’t know what to expect going into Jackaby. The blurb compares it to Sherlock and Doctor Who, both of which I have never seen, so I had no real expectations going into it, except that I expected something paranormal with wacky shenanigans. Well, Jackaby did deliver on that! However, there were quite a few things I was disappointed in.
Jackaby was a fun novel. It tried to be serious, but it really wasn’t; I found it refreshing, actually. Abigail and Jacakby were trying to solve a murder mystery, but you would’ve never guessed it by Jackaby’s attitude and the witty remarks he shared with Abigail. It was supposed to be a murder mystery, but the detective was cracking jokes left and right.
Jackaby was by far the best thing about the novel. Abigail was our narrator, but she wasn’t very interesting, no matter how much depth the author tried to give her. I found her incredibly boring, and I couldn’t connect to her at all. Jackaby, however, was delightful. He was a very unique character, nothing like I’ve ever read before. He was incredibly smart and witty, and 90% of the reason why I kept reading this book was so that I could read more of him.
R.F. Jackaby couldn’t hold the entire story by himself, though. The plot itself sounded very promising at first. A murder mystery in 1800s New England involving supernatural creatures? It sounds amazing and full of fun little adventures. That couldn’t be farther from the truth though. The mystery itself was incredibly boring, and it seemed like Abigail and Jackaby never actually did anything. It felt like everything just coincidentally happened as they ran back and forth between like 3 different places. They went to the murder scene, went back to Jackaby’s house, found out new information, went to the murder scene, went back to Jackaby’s…can you see where I’m going with this?
There was some romance promised in the blurb, which I was very excited about! However, like everything else, that was dull, if not nonexistent. The most “romance” this book had to offer was a few quick glances between Abigail and Charlie Cane, a detective who also had a nonexistent personality, that resulted in blushing. I was woefully underwhelmed by this romance, even if it wasn’t supposed to be the central plot. There were a few “loose ends,” I suppose, between them that could lead into the sequel, but honestly, it was totally lackluster.
The writing itself was very good. It was so quirky, and I loved that! Everything felt beautifully described, the dialogue was witty and perfect, and it made me smile quite a few times. I had no problems with the actual writing, just the story.
Overall, Jackaby sounded promising but was completely underwhelming. The title character was one of the only interesting things; the main character was dull , the mystery was snooze worthy, and the writing was quirky but it wasn’t enough to keep this book afloat. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either, which is almost worse in my mind. Judging by the blurb of the second book, I don’t think the next book will be any better, so I doubt I’ll be checking out the sequel.