by William Ritter
It’s 1892 and Abigail Rook has left her parents home in search of adventure. After a brief tenure as an archaeological assistant, she leaves Europe behind to head to the United States. She is soon employed by a Mr. R. F. Jackaby, a strange and brilliant man who has the ability to detect the supernatural that are usually otherwise hidden from the human eye. Their first case together involves a supernatural serial killer with the penchant of ripping open his victims and mopping up their blood.
While the mystery aspect of Jackaby was pretty standard (beyond it being a supernatural suspect), what really sold me on the book were the characters.
Abigail Rook is a strong, independent young woman (I don’t think her age is ever mentioned, but I’d guess she is anywhere from maybe 16-19.) After years of being left behind while her father went to one archeological digs after another, she decides to set out on her own.
“As you had previously cautioned, a professional dig site proved to be no place for a young lady to run around. Currently in seek of a better location to do so.”
She is smart, observant and won’t let anyone tell her how she is supposed to act as a young lady, which I particularly enjoyed. The subtle (Ok maybe not so subtle) jabs at gender norms was one of my favorite parts. And she has a healthy appreciation for pockets.
“Pockets! I was thrilled. I have never understood the aversion to pockets in ladies fashion—as though it has become some great shame to appear as if one might actually need to possess anything.”
It’s funny how 120 years have passed and it’s still a struggle to find any women’s clothing that has real pockets. But, back to the story.
I liked Abigail’s narration a lot. She was funny witty and I think an overall awesome counterpart to Jackaby.
“I see the things more extraordinary still, the things no one else sees. But you—you notice mailboxes and wastebaskets and…and people. One who can see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed, Abigail Rook.”
Jackaby, like the synopsis stated, is the Sherlock Holmes of supernatural mysteries.
“I am a man of reason and science. I believe what I can see or prove, and what I can see is often difficult for others to grasp […] I do not believe, for an 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 top by and drink.”
But at the same time he reminded me of Shawn Spencer from Psych because he can be funny when he wants to be, often at the expense of the police inspector who doesn’t believe in the supernatural.
And the relationship that developed (albeit rather quickly) between them was great. First, because it is 100% platonic without any sort of indication that would ever change. They banter was probably my favorite part:
“That book. What on earth are you doing with it?”
“Well, you had the stick.”
His eyebrows furrowed. “This is a shillelagh. It was cut from Irish blackthorn by a leprechaun craftsman […] That […] is a book.”
“It’s heavy, though. A Leprechaun? Like, the tiny fellow who keeps pots of gold at the ends of rainbows?”
“Don’t be asinine. I mean a real leprechaun.”
I also really liked that there was almost no romance. There was the development of a crush and the hint of a possible future romance but that’s really it.
The writing was good; it was pretty simple and straightforward, but that’s not always a bad thing. I think Jackaby would be great for middle grade and the younger set of YA, but I still had a great time reading it. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.