“Jackaby” by William Ritter


I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Jackaby” by William RitterJackaby by William Ritter
Series: Jackaby #1
Published: 2014 by Algonquin
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 299
Format: Hardcover
Source: the publisher
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Jackaby by William Ritter is easily one of the best books of 2014.  Set in 1892, it tells the story of a girl named Abigail Rook who runs away from home seeking adventure.  After a failed experiment in an archaelological dig, she finds her way to New Fiddleham, a small and somewhat stereotypical town in New England.

Abigail tries to find a job, but is largely unsuccessful.  Then she meets Jackaby, a detective of sorts whose specialty is the occult.  Abigail doesn’t believe in the occult, but she’s free-spirited and open-minded, and decides to give Jackaby a chance.

It wasn’t that I did not believe in ghosts; it was that I believed in them in the same noncommittal way that I believed in giant squids or lucky coins or Belgium.  They were things that probably existed, but I had never had any occasion to really care one way or another.  I had never given ghosts much thought–except, perhaps, as a frightened child gazing into shadows at bedtime.

Jackaby comes off as quite the eccentric, but that’s because he sees the world differently from most people.  He’s quite familiar with ghosts, banshees, and sprites, and he’s the only one who can see them.

I do not believe, for example, that pixies enjoy honey and milk because some old superstition says they do… I believe it because when I leave a dish out for them a few times a week, they stop by and drink.  They’re fascinating creatures, by the way.  Lovely wings: cobweb thin and iridescent in the moonlight.

On Abigail’s first day on the job, she and Jackaby happen upon the scene of a murder.  The two of them work together to solve the case, each lending their own perspective and skills.  Abigail assumes the Sherlock Holmes type persona and notices little details that are rife with importance.  Jackaby brings his knowledge of the supernatural, immediately determining that the culprit is not entirely human.  Meanwhile, they must dodge the police department, who see Jackaby as a crackpot and a nuisance.

I loved that Abigail isn’t just a sidekick.  The story is told from her point of view, and there are moments where she’s swept along in events in a rather Watson-like way.  At the same time, she’s so very much herself that you can’t really compare her to the character who inspired her.  She and Jackaby work together so well because both of them are stubborn and incorrigible.

Normally when I’m reading a book, I mark, highlight, or take a picture of passages that jump out at me that I might want to quote in a review.  With Jackaby, I found such passages almost every other page, and it was hard to choose what to include here.  I found myself falling in love with Ritter’s use of language and the way that he juxtaposes the fantastic with the mundane.  Jackaby has a feeling of lightheartedness and brings out the sheer joy that made me fall in love with reading in the first place.


2 thoughts on ““Jackaby” by William Ritter

  1. This one looks like a fun one! And I love the cover! Thanks for the recommendation.
    Also, I am having a giveaway that finishes tomorrow at midnight and I was wondering if you could spread the word :$. Hope this is not inappropriate to ask. Here is the link, just in case: http://goo.gl/je0IRn

  2. I’ve heard some really good things about Jackaby and I love the whole Sherlock/Watson vibe it’s got going on. It’s also pretty reassuring to hear that Abigail isn’t relegated to sidekick territory, because sometimes I think the brilliant detective character is given way too much page time in these kinds of stories. All that and great writing? Sign me up!

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