“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.”
Thoughts: In any partnership story, its success hinges on the appeal of both partners. Thankfully, Jackaby has two wonderful characters and even better minor characters that make the story thoroughly entertaining and fun. Abigail is the woman ahead of her times, making her own way through the world seeking adventure and excitement. She stumbles into Jackaby upon her first few hours in town, and the story takes off from there. Jackaby is every bit as quirky, disorganized, and distant as one would imagine when compared to Sherlock or Doctor Who, but there is a softer side that quickly shines through the gruff exterior. Together, the two balance each other. Abigail brings Jackaby back to reality, and Jackaby in turn allows Abigail to use her imagination and sense of adventure in ways she never imagined.
The eclectic cast of characters includes a resident ghost who takes Abigail under her wing and provides the nurturing she did not realize she missed, a former assistant turned duck who also resides in the house and attends to Jackaby’s records and case files. There is also the local witch-type figure, whose grasp on reality is tentative at best but whose earnestness is never in doubt, as well as the local police chief who refuses to believe in the supernatural but begrudgingly admits that Jackaby has a way of solving the unsolvable. It is very Sherlockian, but it is not so much a rip-off as it is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the very popular series and beloved characters.
While the story takes place in 1892, New Fiddleham and its inhabitants have a much more aged quality about them that makes it easy for readers to imagine the story occurring in 1792 rather than during the Industrial Revolution. Mentions of telegrams are off-putting because the town feels much so much older. However, the attitudes are anything but Puritanical but more befitting of the times. No one looks askance at a young unchaperoned woman wandering the streets alone at night or at a young woman looking for work. It is refreshing to see Abigail’s independence embraced by her small circle of friends.
Jackaby is a thoroughly enjoyable, rollicking adventure, with tongue firmly in cheek as Abigail and Jackaby attend to the various supernatural crimes around the little town. Abigail is spunky and delightfully anti-status quo, while Jackaby has an insouciance about him that is quite charming. Together, they make a unique but entertaining duo, and one can only hope theirs is a partnership of which readers will see a lot more adventures.