Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jackaby ~ William Ritter (earc) review [@AlgonquinYR]

Algonquin Young Readers
September 16, 2014
299 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

“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.

Jackaby  is most definitely Doctor Who meets Sherlock (really either the BBC Sherlock or CBS'). An investigator, Jackaby is able to solve crimes because he sees what others do  not. Supernatural things included. His abilities help to create the eccentric R.F. Jackaby everyone knows about but very few, if any, understand.

It is the ordinary, more mundane things that Jackaby fails to notice. Making Abigail Rook, newly arrived in New Fiddleham and in need of lodgings and employment, a perfect match.  She notices those things that don't take an ability to see other worlds - but are still vital to the case.

From her very first day, with her very first case: a serial killer, Abigail's contribution to their investigation is not in question. What is in question is whether or not she can work with the eccentric Jackaby and believe in all that he claims to see and know. Even if she cannot see it for herself.

Ritter's debut is an incredibly fun read. While he has some of the same traits and quirks as the modern interpretations of Sherlock and/or of the Doctor, Jackaby as a whole is a fresh and original character.

He is absolutely that quirky detective whose interactions with others come off a bit . . . odd. He seems to have more interpersonal skills than Sherlock, for sure. The real strain for Jackaby seems to come from being able to see so many things, know of so many things and even expect so many things that others simply don't believe in and cannot see.

Abigail is a perfect match for him. Despite the time period (1892) she is quite independent. Arriving in New Fiddleham with no prospects and no concrete plans, she is not exactly what one would expect of a young woman at the time. Yet, she has just the right amount of anxiety around things like her dresses to fit. The questions she presents to Jackaby, the things she sees that he doesn't and the different way she makes him think of things,makes them a great team.

It's also enjoyable to see how she adapts to life and work with his character.

The mystery made sense when it all came together, unnoticed clues becoming part of the solution. There weren't clues that could help the reader really piece it all together or red herrings to imply a solution ultimately proven false. Yet, I enjoyed reading about Jackaby, the magical and mystical world he is aware of, seeing Abigail become part of that world (even if unable to see it) and watching as they learned to work together and even, possibly, become friends. The strength of the rest of the novel more than compensated for what was a bit of a light mystery.

Jackaby's humor, the main character and how Abigail Rook's character plays off of him, and the world he is a part of make the novel a great pleasure to read. I do hope that this won't be a standalone novel, I would love to read more of Jackaby and Miss Rook.

While it doesn't quite fit in the review, my love of Chapter 13 bears mentioning. A quote that demonstrates some of why I love Jackaby and Jackaby:
"Well, you had the stick."

"His eyebrows furrowed. "This is a shillelagh. It was cut from Irish blackthorn by a leprechaun craftsman, cured in hte furnace of Gofannon, and imbued with supernatural powers of protection. That" he gestured to the book - "is a book."
- Jackaby pg 144

digital copy received for review thanks to publisher & NetGalley

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