Title: Jackaby (Jackaby #1)
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers (16th September 2014)
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 the 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 villian, but Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of the kind of creature whose very existence the local authorities – with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane – seem adamant to deny.
Rating: **** (4 stars)
JACKABY by William Ritter is the first book in the Jackaby series. It tells the story of newly arrived English immigrant Abigail Rook, who arrives in New Fiddleham, New England at the start of the book. Whilst looking for a place to work, Abigail comes across an ad for an assistant. Having no luck anywhere else, Abigail decides to try her luck with R. F. Jackaby, investigator of the unexplained.
Historically set novels are, to be quite honest, generally not my cup of tea. To be honest, I usually try and avoid them. Having heard that JACKABY was a kind of supernatural Sherlock, I was intrigued and decided to give the novel a go. I can honestly say that JACKABY is the exception to my rule; the book was fun, easy to follow, and a really enjoyable read.
In JACKABY we are introduced to our narrator right as she steps off the ship, and we know from the start that Abigail Rook is someone interesting and out of the ordinary – why else would she be travelling alone to a new country in 1892, when it would be more common for her to have a travelling companion? I found Abigail to be a good narrator; Ritter gives her a good balance of explaining enough, so we know what’s going on, but not too much, so we feel like we’re being led by the nose.
Then there is the eponymous Jackaby, investigator of the unexplained. The comparisons with Sherlock are somewhat apt; though Jackaby is a bit more talkative and deals with the supernatural. Ritter does a good job with the secondary characters. They are on the whole fleshed out and interesting; I’m hoping that we will see more of them in future books.
The plot of the novel focuses on a series of murders committed in New Fiddleham, that Jackaby wishes to investigate. Ritter provides an interesting mix of the ‘normal’ and the supernatural in this book, so that JACKABY is a combination of historical urban fantasy and detective novel. Ritter introduces some new and interesting inhabitants of folklore, a few of which I did not recognise the names of at all.
I enjoyed watching Abigail fall into, and become part of, this new world. Ritter kept me guessing on who – and what – was committing the murders, and there were some nice twists in the narrative as the story unfolds. JACKABY is a good start to the series; it contains a lot of promise for future stories. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, then don’t let the historical nature of this book put you off.