Jackaby - William Ritter

A massive thank you to Algonquin Books for providing me with an ebook copy of this book, it was an exciting adventure all the way through, from beginning to end. 

There is so much to say about this book, especially upon finishing it when my mind of full of thoughts and emotions, pleasant ones, but the verdict is simple – I loved this book. I didn’t know what to expect from it when I read the summary blurb, especially when I stumbled upon the comparison to this book being a Sherlock-meets-Dr.-Who type of book. I was a tad skeptical as well, as very few of those kinds of books which promise to live up to the expectations of existing well-loved wonders end up failing to do so. 

Not in this case. 

I cannot say anything about the Dr. Who component as I have not watched the series, but there are familiar characteristics that are present in Jackaby the same as they are in Sherlock. There is that eccentricity, that vibe of adventure and mystery throughout the entire novel, balanced with wonderful descriptions and quirky dialogue which will make you chuckle along the way, and at the right moments. The element of the supernatural is worked into the novel superbly, creating a whole new genre of detective mystery that is original and witty, filled with those wonderful explanations from R.F. Jackaby which truly show the scope of his knowledge while underlining his eccentric disposition. The author sure possessed a good grasp of various supernatural and folklore beings because it showed in the writing, the inclusion of something beyond the mere stereotypical creatures that many people would list off at the top of their heads if they were asked. The ghost and duck which also room with Jackaby are great examples of the clever use of the supernatural aspect.

As a character Jackaby possessed that encyclopedic knowledge about the topics concerning him while struggling with the mundane, and though this is a characteristic familiar to fans of Sherlock Holmes it is taken to a new depth in this novel. He also has some very memorable and comical lines, such as his explanation about his (rather hideous) hat, which blend the feeling of knowledge and his seriousness with that layer of light humour. He was truly a great detective to read about, and truly lived up to my expectation of a distinctive, lively character.

The same should be said about Abigail Rook, a truly spirited and stubborn girl that won me over with her willpower and perseverance while possessing a backbone and her own distinct personality. There were mentions of that unmistakable vulnerable aspect and personal struggles throughout the story, but they were also juxtaposed with her actions throughout the case. 

There were also a couple of ‘words of wisdom’ this book offered, which I wrote down because they were reminders of ideas and issues that people still often forget today, but were woven into a supernatural story that couldn’t have gotten the point across better than it did.

It was a bit of a predictable case, I must admit, one that I guessed the resolve to a few chapters into the actual investigative procedure. Nonetheless this didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book, in fact only heightened my curiosity to see whether my speculations would turn out true and what the creature involved in the case was. The methodology itself though wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been, which I think is the one slight ‘flaw’ of the book, since the case wasn’t closed through the use of as much detective work, logic, and clues as is common in traditional mystery/murder cases. Still, as I said, I loved it.

I have a hunch (as well a burning hope) that there will be a second book coming after this one, because, though the case was resolved, there were several other threads left hanging that can be picked up on. The premise of this book was a new breath in the world of the supernatural and mystery literary worlds that it simply cannot be left at this. The characters win you over and are difficult to part with at the end, to say the least. It is that same haunting and bittersweet feeling you get after finishing an episode of Sherlock, with some of the adrenaline you get after watching the final episode of the season and feeling like you’ll die of anticipation for the next season (trust me, I know). It’s a book that, though marketed as YA, will appeal to anyone, not just teenagers, as it breaks away from the aspects so familiar and typical to the YA genre. Romance is not a big part in this book, as the blurb may lead one to believe, which is a rare case when it comes to books targeted towards teenagers, but in this case will appeal greatly to those who do not favour romance as being the main focus of the novel.

One thing is for sure: once you pick this book up you will not want to put it down, not until you get to the very last page, and even then you’ll be going back to the beginning for another taste.