Review: Jackaby

Book Review181309Title: Jackaby

Author: William Ritter

Series: Jackaby Series

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publish Date: September 16, 2014

Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller

“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 haven’t been reading many mysteries recently, and YA mysteries have been fairly hard to come by recently, so I jumped at the opportunity to buy this from Amazon for $1.99.  I may have a mild (bordering on severe) obsession with purchasing discount books…

Overall, the plot was challenging to follow, but intentionally so.  There were repeated references to mythological and paranormal creatures, and it was initially difficult to identify how these various components fit together to form a single, cohesive story.  While I’m typically not a fan of being completely left in the dark, I think the tactic worked well in this situation. While the killer was certainly predictable, the individual isn’t all that he initially appears to be, so it was interesting to see how that tied together.  I particularly enjoyed the conclusion of the book and would have never expected it to end in that manner, even in my wildest dreams, which was a nice surprise.

I was immediately drawn to the eccentric, yet lovable character of Mr. Jackaby.  He was of particular interest due to his multi-faceted personality, of which very little is revealed.  He remained an enigma for the entire book, and, while I would have liked to see some additional characterization and development, I got the sense that more of this would be revealed in upcoming installments.  Needless to say, Jackaby was

I found Abigail, the female protagonist, to be a bit of a lost puppy.  The second she was introduced to Jackaby, she latched on to him and rarely left his side for the remainder of the novel.  It would have been interesting to hear the story recounted from multiple perspectives as Jackaby and Abigail investigated the murder from various sectors of the city, but unfortunately this was never the case.  She also routinely embodied the position of a damsel in distress, which I’ve found to be extremely aggravating in recent years.  She didn’t trust herself to perform the most simple of tasks and instead looked to Jackaby or members of the police force to point her in the right direction.  She also had a frustrating knack of pointing out the obvious – whether to dumb things down to the reader’s level or to add another perspective to her character, I certainly wasn’t a fan.

The police force was intentionally frustrating.  They served as excellent collective antagonists, constantly hindering Jackaby’s hunt for the killer.  I loved how each character was given a distinct personality and background story, despite the sheer number of men on the force.  I also enjoyed how unique each of the characters were – there was minimal, if any, overlap.

This definitely wasn’t a challenging read – it was more of a light, fun one.  While I can’t speak to the Sherlock/Doctor Who references, I would definitely recommend it to a friend!


3.5/5 Cauldrons

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I am a senior in high school and an avid reader/reviewer, horseback rider, and graphic designer.  Since a young age, I have fostered a love of reading, beginning with my forays into the Nancy Drew series.  I’ve branched out significantly in my reading tastes since then, and my favorite genres include young adult, romance, mystery, and thriller.  I’m constantly trying to expand my horizons, however, so I do dabble in other genres.  While I’m not reading, I volunteer at a hippotherapy center and a veterinary clinic, practice agility with my dogs, play piano, and sketch.
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