Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jackaby - William Ritter

Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 299 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Mystery, Fantasy
Started: December 15, 2014
Finished: December 18, 2014

From the inside cover:

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, in 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 - with the exception of the handsome detective Charlie Cane - are convinced their culprit is an ordinary villain. Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of an inhuman creature, the likes of which the authorities are adamant to deny. Doctor Who meets Sherlock in a debut novel, the first in a series, brimming with cheeky humour and a dose of the macabre.

When I first read the hype for this in my book newsletter, I knew this was a book I was going to love. Thankfully I was right, this was an excellent book which has left me clamoring for the next installment.

Abigail is a rather independent woman for the Victorian era. She wants to go on archaeological digs like her father and absconds with her college tuition money to pursue that. When that doesn't quite work out, she travels to America in the hope of making it on her own to avoid crawling back to her rigid parents. On her first day off the boat, she meets Jackaby, a strange, but otherwise pleasing mix of Sheldon Cooper, Sherlock Holmes, and The Doctor from Doctor Who. Jackaby works alongside the police department (begrudgingly so) solving crimes that involve supernatural elements. He is in search of an assistant that can handle his unique line of work (meaning that they can avoid being turned into an animal or other such fate), and finds one in Abigail. Together they work to solve the recent mystery of a string of strange killings.

I loved this book for so many reasons. The supernatural elements are quite well done and not your typical ones either: banshees, a redcap, Caini (werewolf-like shapeshifters), a prior assistant turned into a duck, a resident ghost in Jackaby's office, and a frog that releases noxious gas if you stare at it.

The humour is wonderful here and I guarantee it will have you laughing. Jackaby himself has a kind of witty, cheeky humour that thankfully rubs off on Abigail throughout the book, so the conversations between them are quite amusing. I can picture this being made into a movie, the dialogue lends itself well to that. Plus, I love the scenes with the frog ("Oh my god, you stared at the frog, didn't you?!")

The characters are appealing but I'm waiting on more development of them. Jackaby is intelligent but tortured, Abigail is very independent and rejects common gender roles, Charlie is fairly ordinary but likeable, and Jenny is pretty awesome. There isn't much development of said characters, so I'm hoping that will come in later books, but otherwise I like what I see here. The mystery was pretty easy to figure out, but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless.

This is a must-read, if for nothing else than the humour and Jackaby himself (can you tell I love him?). I'll be not-so-patiently waiting for the next book.

Thoughts on the cover:
Love. It. The colour scheme is very appealing, the silhouette of Jackaby actually looks like he's described, the addition of Abigail in her red dress, and the title in script font all comes together for a great piece of eye candy.

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