Author: William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: Historical fiction, Recipe for awesomesauce, More please?, Fantasy/pnr/everything untoward
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.
“The chimneys and stovepipes have not been singing as often lately. That’s never a good sign for the city. They know something’s wrong.”
I know there have been Sherlock comparisons but Jackaby, for me, only alludes to Doctor Who derivations and boy am I glad for that. The book may certainly share some particulars with the former; however, throughout the exploits, I kept getting the sense of being stuck in the mind of Clara Oswald, while she’s gallivanting about in history with the Eleventh Doctor, as only she does. While that in itself is grounds for satisfaction, the author takes it several steps ahead on both counts.
“Monsters are easy, Miss Rook. They’re monsters. But a monster in a suit? That’s basically just a wicked man, and a wicked man is a more dangerous thing by far.”
Is that not precisely the kind of think the Doctor would say?
In recent memory, Jackaby happens to be the only book I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, experiencing not a moment of boredom or distraction. With due diligence given to each aspect to ensure it’s entertainment value, the story is hilarious, interesting, grim and dominantly, fantastically adventurous, with that particular allure of episodic wonders! As in, come in, come in, for the time of your life…and if you wish, leave afterwards but will you, really?
The character cast is enamoring. I’ve already attributed the two main ones to whom I think they resemble, but that’s it. There’s simply resemblance, and each possesses a dark cavity of their own personality that we don’t, with the flick of a redundant wand, become cognizant of simply by the virtue of being the reader.
Abigail, our headstrong protagonist, is a girl whose failed attempts at finding adventure have disillusioned her, yet not to the point that she doesn’t, and grab in an iron grip, when it dangles before her. For a while now, she’s come to terms with her personal drama with parents and thus, the story is more focused on the enterprises she’s been longing for forever, as opposed to her melodrama that ensues from familial discords in books. And there’s much more to her that we observe in her handling of society, not in her thought processes.
On the other hand, Jackaby resembles the Eleventh a lot: mumbling, awkward, verbose when it comes to seemingly inconsequential information that is interesting nonetheless, laconic when it comes to answers. Despite that, I indeed got the sense of him being his own person. He’s not Sherlock and he’s not the Eleventh, I think that should be made clear. Anymore than that, you should find out yourself.
“…This world is full of dragon slayers. What we need are a few more people who aren’t too proud to listen to a fish.”
Also, was Jackaby’s house itself not similar to T.A.R.D.I.S. in a sense? (Answer: It was!)
And off they go! Oh, the places they’ll go!
Although I figured out the identity of our serial killer early on, that did not affect my enjoyment at all, as it didn’t impugn Jackaby’s character/intelligence a bit. I actually found it an entertaining exercise to see how they reached the ultimate conclusion, and the solving process remained integral, intriguing. On that account, my wishes were unfulfilled as in case of Abigail, the disclosure of the identity was relatively incidental but yet again, it mattered not one bit.
There were certain aspects that I wish had been explored a bit more-such as, Jackaby’s abilities or the historical context of it, and I do so found the sidewise reference to Arthur Conan Doyle‘s works a misstep.
Finding myself lost, or at least dissolved, in the parable, I was reminded of a time when reason didn’t matter, stupidity wasn’t obvious and one could simply be off saving this world or that, or simply exploring it. The fact that William Ritter brought me back to a place reminiscent of the aforementioned, even in my obtrusively cynical capacity, is a fact that entirely behooves me to urge one and all to give Jackaby a try.
In any case, the debut author in now on my auto-buy list-that is, if I can’t get my hands on a review copy first. And I look forward to more episodic, frolicking escapades with Jackaby and Abigail, if there be more books.
“Oh yes,” answered Jackaby. “Yes, indeed, Miss Rook. It seems the plot is much larger and more wicked than we’d feared.”
Thank you, Algonquin Books!