Jackaby - William Ritter

Sherlock Holmes meets a world of the supernatural with this stunning novel by William Ritter. Jackaby centres on a young girl who has moved away from her family and moved to the United States in search of work and adventure, and she finds both within days of coming ashore. Answering an ad for an investigative assistant, Abigail Rook meets Mr. R. F. Jackaby, and her perception of the world around her is irrevocably changed. Shortly after meeting Mr. Jackaby, Abigail tags along on a visit to an apartment in which a murder has taken place. The body, though, seems to be lacking a lot of blood. With very few clues to help them out, Abigail and Jackaby begin to unravel a most nefarious mystery which just might bring them closer to their own demise than they might like.

“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.”

Throughout Jackaby I found myself laughing at Jackaby's blundering intelligence and his charmingly absurd demeanour. Everything from his outward appearance to his ability to find the unbelievable in the seemingly ordinary is richly detailed. Abigail herself is a feisty protagonist, unwilling to give up when things become dangerous. And even though Jackaby remains seemingly clueless where social niceties are concerned, Abigail manages to navigate his quirks to become a most invaluable investigator in her own right.

The plot is swift and the setting detailed. Ritter creates complex and intriguing characters, even when they only appear for a few moments within the book. Jackaby, even though he seems at first glance to be rather rude and perhaps even unlikeable, manages to show a much more rounded personality as the story moves forward. We are given moments in which he shows his vulnerability, his fears, and even his unique way of showing care and affection for those he befriends (which, in reality, are very few in number!)

One of my favourite moments is when Jackaby states, "The truth can be so detrimental to one's credibility." Isn't it, though, when the supernatural and unknown creep in? When those things we cannot explain suddenly interrupt our lives, even if we may know it is true, the admission of such unwanted truth really does diminish credibility. Ritter's novel is so much more than just a mystery or adventure, it's an exploration of expectations, truth, and belief.

Since finishing Jackaby I have already begun the countdown until the next book (Beastly Bones) is released in September of 2015. If you like monsters, folklore, myth, and deductive reasoning, you'll find yourself entranced in this delightful and at times frightening tale of the world behind the curtain.

Highly Recommended

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