William Ritter: Jackaby

Feb 01, 2016

Jackaby by William Ritter was yet another Christmas present requiring some reading. I got a nice hardcover edition in Czech translation (good enough, didn’t pull me out of the story). It is marketed as a young adult novel in between Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, which were the reasons it was picked for me (the Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes part, not the young adult part).

Surprisingly, the young author delivers! Don’t get confused, the book is still a young adult novel with a straightforward plot. A young girl, Abigail Rook, who ran away from a wealthy family to become an archaeologist in Ukraine arrives to the New World. In search of a job, she replies to a posting looking for an assistant to a detective. As it turns out, the detective has a unique ability to see supernatural beings who often get in trouble with the human law creating a demand for a detective of the arcane; Jackaby fits the bill. He’s smart, curious, absentminded loner living in a house with a ghost and an assistant turned into a duck. His abilities are both sought after and sneered at. Especially by the police force.

Abigail jumps into the action, tries to prove herself, and helps to solve a series of murders. The mystery is not complex, but there is a nice twist with one side character. Jackaby is indeed a mix of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and The Doctor, but his character is somewhat softened, more in touch with reality and less self-destructive compared to Sherlock.

The prose is nice and swift; I read the book in two days. The style creates a nice atmosphere and the sherlockian 19th century vibe with somewhat modernized language (though my sister claimed that it was too modern and annoying). Abigail’s character is surprisingly self-reliant and emancipated for the time of the story. If you ignore that, she serves a nice role model for the readers.

I intend to give the book to my girlfriend’s nieces who are in the target audience age. I’m really looking forward to what they think about the story, because it was a pleasurable read for me.