Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jackaby by William Ritter

The blurb:

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.

Jackaby's story is told from the point of view of Abigail Rook, a young and educated English girl. who decided to leave school in search for an education through archeological digs.  Her father is a palentologist but recommended that she finish her schooling and find a husband to care for her.  Instead, Abigail absconded with her tuition money to join an archeological dig which went bankrupt.  Abigail then decided to try her luck in America where she meets young Jackaby, a self proclaimed detective with the ability to find and see supernatural creatures.

Jackaby is young, arrogant, disturbingly observant - much like a young American Sherlock Holmes dedicated to reason and science which he uses to explain illusions and supernatural phenomena.  Rook is funny, spirited, and equally observant; she's an excellent foil for Jackaby and a valuable assistant.  "Jackaby sees things more extraordinary still, the things that no one else sees.  But Rook - Rook notices mailboxes and wastebaskets and . . . and people.  One who can see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed."  So,  Rook is hired as Jackaby's assistant.

As a Sherlock Holmes type character, Jackaby does get a lot of teasing from Abigail Rook, Chief Inspector Marlowe, and the people that he encounters.  While Jackaby does get respect, the ribbing he suffers adds to the fun. 

The murder mystery that makes up Jackaby's main case comes with a strange map, a banshee, goblins, and other supernatural creatures.  Still, the detective skills used to find and interpret the clues are based in reason.  

ISBN-10: 1616203536 - Hardcover $16.95
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers (September 16, 2014), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
Reports of William Ritter's birthplace are unreliable and varied, placing his hometown either in a series of mysterious Catacombs in Malta or in a nondescript town in Oregon. His parents, it can be confirmed, raised him to value intelligence, creativity, and individuality. When reading aloud, they always did the voices.

At the University of Oregon, William made questionable choices, including willfully selecting classes for the interesting stories they promised, rather than for any practical application. When he wasn’t frivolously playing with words, he earned credits in such meaningful courses as Trampoline, Juggling, and Seventeenth Century Italian Longsword. These dubious decisions notwithstanding, he regrets nothing and now holds degrees in English and education with certificates in creative writing and folklore.

He currently teaches high school language arts, including reading and writing, mythology and heroes. He is a proud husband and father. When reading aloud, he always does the voices.

Jackaby is his first novel. It was born in the middle of the night and written on two different hemispheres. It has survived typhoons and hurricanes and was fostered into publication through the patient care of many hands.