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Book Review: JACKABY

It’s being advertised as Sherlock meets Doctor Who, and this avid fan of British television has to agree that William Ritter’s first novel, Jackaby, pretty much fits the bill. It’s exactly the thing you want to curl up with a cup of tea and inhale in a window seat on a rainy autumn day. Mr. Jackaby is somewhat Tennant-ish; our protagonist is equal parts Molly Hooper, Rose Tyler and herself; and the murderous plot beautifully melds modern storytelling and classic fables.

Jackaby is told through the voice of Abigail Rook, a young woman quite literally fresh off the boat from Europe in 1892. Miss Rook is well-educated and completely inspired by her anthropologist father. But in the grand tradition of daughters of the small gentry, Abigail flees her boarding school and the life of silk dresses and fashion that her parents would have her pursue to join a dinosaur dig in the Carpathian Mountains. When that inevitably goes south, she jumps a ship to the New World with just a quick missive to her folks that she’s alive and will write soon.

Flash forward to New Fiddleham, New England, and Abigail Rook must find a job and lodging with very little money to get herself there. Enter R.F. Jackaby, resident supernatural PI of the small town, and suddenly she has both job and lodging as well as a ghostly neighbor, a predecessor who was turned into a mallard, and a third floor attic that looks and acts suspiciously like a woodland glade. So as not to give away the entire plot of the novel, there is also an Irish siren, some crazy canine problems, and one gruesome serial killer on the loose.

Take the time to pick up this delightful story and you will not be disappointed by the tag line that compares it to your favorite British shows. Before any superfans get their noses out of joint, this is one marketing gimmick we completely stand behind. The story is not at all a retelling of either the 50 year old TV show or Baker Street’s detective. It is really just a great tease for the feelings the world and story will evoke in you as you read. We honestly couldn’t put it down, and kind of want to go reread it again.

If you loved Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife,” we pretty much guarantee you’ll be rooting for Jackaby’s house – practically a character all by itself. And any fans of the Sherlock/Watson BrOTP will appreciate Abigail Rook’s attention to the mundane that pairs so well with R.F. Jackaby’s preoccupation with the supernatural. Additionally, we completely and totally appreciate that William Ritter has given us a scholar (because we kind of have to look at Jackaby a bit that way) who loves his books and doesn’t want Abigail tossing them around. He really has created a lovely little world in early America that we want to read more of, and we hope that he will continue to entertain us for many titles to come.

Did we mention that the physical specimen is also gorgeous? Because it really is lovely. We are considering grabbing a calligraphy set and seeing if we can’t learn some fancy penmanship.

Go read Jackaby and tell us what you think in the comments, or shoot me a tweet at @bookoisseur!

Jackaby is available now in hardcover and e-book from Algonquin Young Readers.

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