Title: Jackaby (Jackaby #1)
Author: William Ritter
Genre: historical/paranormal mystery
Date Read: 15/04/2015 – 21/04/2015
When I first started reading this book, I was thinking it would get four stars for sure. However, while I still greatly enjoyed it, there were enough little things that bothered me enough to bring it down to three.
Jackaby is narrated by Abigail Rook, fresh off a boat in New England after taking off with the money her parents had allowed her to pay for her university education. In her search for employment, she meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator with unconventional methods. The police force of New Fiddleham tolerates him because he assists on some of their less explainable cases (i.e. the supernatural ones). However, along with some relation between the Jackaby character and Matt Smith’s Doctor, I really felt that was where the similarities ended.
The mystery itself was actually very well-crafted, and I appreciated William Ritter’s use of magical creatures we don’t usually see in books being written today. There are redcaps and banshees present, and Jackaby also refers to some Eastern European magical creatures that have made their home in Abigail’s hat.
The two lead characters, though, I felt were a bit bland. Jackaby’s switches between sweet and terse left me with a bit of whiplash (sometimes he’d be cranky because people are so stupid but then he’d be half-smiling at Abigail with a tinge of pride showing through a moment later). Abigail herself was fairly plucky, but never really got much development. Maybe that’s coming in future books.
The thing that bothered me the most were the little things, like an English narrator saying “mommy” instead of “mummy” in her narration. I know the author is American, but that made it feel a little less authentic. There was other language as well that felt a bit out of place in 1892. As I said, only little things, but enough to pull me out of the story.
There is a lot of humour in the book, both in the form of the banter between characters, and some running jokes, like one of Jackaby’s former assistants now being in the form of a duck and refusing to use the magic which would turn him back. While it was overall a fun, light read, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out for the second one when it’s released later this year.
3 thoughts on “Book Review: Jackaby by William Ritter”
I’m glad to see your review. I had similar thoughts about the book, especially about Abigail. The focus seemed to be on Jackaby and his eccentricities. Abigail, like many narrators, acts as an onlooker. We’ve seen that over and over. But like you I suspect her character will deepen in future books.
l just realised I didn’t edit this post very well and that there’s a random reference to the Eleventh Doctor with no prior mention of the “Sherlock meets Doctor Who” blurb. I’m sure you figured out what I meant. There’s a lot of really good potential but I’ve got to be really pulled in by the first book of a series and I don’t think this one did it for me.
It’s a shame about the main characters being a bit bland and about those other things you pointed out as the premise sounded really promising!