Jackaby by William Ritter | Book Review

I received this book for free from 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 Ritter | Book ReviewJackaby by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Books on 2014-09-16
Genres: 19th Century, Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Mysteries & Detective Stories, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 250
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”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.

I feel like I have been anticipating reading Jackaby by William Ritter for like FOREVER. No, but seriously, it was a relatively decent book. Jackaby is described as Sherlock meets Dr. Who. As I’ve watched around fifteen minutes of Dr. Who, have only seen The Great Mouse Detective, I can’t quite testify to the accuracy of that comparison. What I can, however, testify to is the merits and drawbacks that I perceived while reading this book. On the whole, I liked Jackaby, yet it did not entirely gel with me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book that’s worth recommending.

It is 1892 and Abigail Rook has just come to live in New England or more specifically New Fiddleham after living in the Ukraine did not quite pan out for her. To avoid imminent homelessness, Abigail begins to search all over New Fiddleham for a job. There’s only one person who seems to be hiring and that is the enigmatic Jackaby, a rather unconventional detective. Miss Rook is about to undergo trial by fire as Jackaby’s new assistant, because his most recent case is a series of murders. That’s right, a serial killer is on the loose in New Fiddleham and because the actual police cannot figure it out, it’s up to Jackaby and Abigail Rook to save the day. Also, none of the cops go in for Jackaby’s theories except for a young detective named Charlie Cane.

I’ll be honest with you and tell you that Abigail Rook is a totally awesome character. She’s headstrong. She’s hardworking. She has her own ideas about the case that they are on and what detectives should carry. Her voice felt so familiar though. Not that this is a bad thing, there’s great comfort in familiarity. I actually liked that. I still can’t place why Abigail feels familiar to me, but just know she’s the best. I mean, she wears pants sometimes! She also wants to have all these great and grand adventures and instead of waiting for them to fall into her lap, she goes out and pursues them. OH OH now I remember what she reminds me of — she reminds me of a Deanna Raybourn heroine, just way younger.

Jackaby is also a neat character. He’s way older than Abigail and totally eccentric and weird. There’s no seducing going on here, FYI. Anyways, so Jackaby has this ability where he can see mythical creatures. Much of the mysteries that he solves have something to do with the mythical creatures. I mean, he sees Ukrainian spirits and banshees and trolls and all manner of things. There’s also a ghost who lives in Jackaby’s house and his former assistant as well, a man who got turned into a duck who is named Douglas if I remember correctly. I quite liked that bit. Anyways, Jackaby can get to be a pretty long-winded irritating character, but he’s got a good heart and it’s kind of funny how the other characters find him a bit irritating as well. I love how Abigail plays the straight man to Jackaby’s oddball schtick. Seriously, it’s amusing.

Ritter’s book does have a pretty neat world especially with all manner of mythical creatures. I would have liked to have that aspect explored a little more. There’s also a bit of a mutual crush between Detective Charlie Cane and Abigail Rook, only it feels really young and doesn’t quite manifest. It’s there though. I would have liked more of that. I also think that while the mystery is resolved and solved, the book feels like an opening to a series. I would not be surprised to find out that Jackaby isn’t going to be a standalone book, however, I think I would have preferred to have that knowledge going in, if that is the case. And finally, my last thing that I didn’t love is that the book does feel really juvenile. I mean, it straddles the line between young adult and middle grade. This is not a bad thing at all. Just it was not FOR ME. At least that feeling. I still recommend it though.

Jackaby by William Ritter is a fascinating mystery book featuring paranormal creatures, murder, mayhem, an interesting locale and larger than life characters. It is told from a first person, female point of view which is also really cool. I think that if you’re jonesing for a historical mystery with a barely there hint of romance with a super high focus on the actual mystery and clues itself, you’ll really love Jackaby.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Any historical mystery that claims to be Doctor Who meets Sherlock is a must-read for me! Sounds great.

  2. I wish there was more romance but I heard it is going to be a series 🙂 I really love a mystery story so I think I just might pick this one up. Thanks for the review!

  3. Hoping you’ll be my date to the Queen’s Jubilee.
    (I adore The Great Mouse Detective)


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