Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Title : Jackaby (Jackaby #1)
Author : William Ritter
Genre : Young Adult, Paranormal
Publication Date : September 16th, 2014
Publisher : Algonquin Young Readers
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“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” is huge.  To use that to pitch a debut novel is more huge.  (Although, okay, slight clarification—Jackaby is more of the “Supernatural” meets “Sherlock” variety)  I went into Jackaby not expecting too much.  Lately, hype has burned me too much, and it was the simple case of 300 times bitten, 301th time shy.  But I am so, so happy to say that Jackaby was a book I adored and basically had a lot of fun reading.  I picked it up after a couple of disappointments and somehow, I couldn’t read anything after Jackaby for a couple of days!

Abigail Rook left England to get away from the society that required her to be a trophy wife to a suitable match, and after reaching the States, she ends up at New Fiddleham.  This itself was pretty amazing, because talk about a woman taking control of her life in 1892!  Abigail was one of the quiet ones, but she was also the type of girl who would rip you a new one for even thinking about her not being able to do anything because she was a girl.  Basically, I want to be Abigail when I grow up.  Apropos to her part in a mystery novel, the girl made an excellent, reliable narrator, with a very unique and perceptive view of her surroundings.  She was an absolute delight.

Her employer, on the other hand, took some getting used to.  Think of Sherlock’s eccentricity and multiply it by three, because, yes, this guy was that weird.  But R. F. Jackaby is a riot once you get used to his voice.  Obviously, the book was in Abigail’s point of view, and so while we saw what Jackaby did, we can’t possibly know why he did it, but nonetheless, the guy became more and more interesting once I got over the fact that they guy lived with a duck and a ghost.  Not even kidding.

The main reason for my 3 star rating, in all honesty, is the fact that I felt rather underwhelmed after reading the book.  I did love the book (and the characters, and the plot) but after having finished it, my first reaction was, “What? That’s it?”  Underwhelming.  The secondary characters reminded me of a lot of characters from Sherlock Holmes, and again, I wasn’t too impressed by that particular bit.  There were similarities here, too many similarities, and as much as I tried to ignore them, I really couldn’t, when basically every character in Jackaby has a corresponding Sherlock character.

I loved the writing in the book!  So many things about the book could have been silly and fluffy, but William Ritter manages to pull the book off in a way that makes most of the elements in it come off as classy.  I liked the fact that the book was fast and no time was wasted on unnecessary details, which in itself is a godsend, because I could not have tolerated unnecessary rambling in a book dealing with the paranormal.  The ending was fucking fantastic, honestly, and it wasn’t cliff hanger-y at all!  The surprise!  I’m going to be continuing the series in hopes of knowing more about Jackaby’s past, and from what I can see, the next books are related to Charlie Cane (Abigail’s crush, your friendly neighbourhood cop) and Jenny (the aforementioned ghost).  Try this book if you’d like humour with your mysteries, but don’t go in with very high expectations.  It’s good, not great.


I was provided a free ecopy of this book by Algonquin Books through Netgalley in exchange for a free review. This did not in any way, however, influence the content of this review.

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