Monday, April 11, 2016

Jackaby by William Ritter

“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.”

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.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

“When Chief Inspector Marlowe arrives, tell him he’s late. Damned unprofessional.”
 A young officer with a uniform that looked as though it had once belonged to a much larger man stepped forward timidly. “But Marlowe’s been inside nearly half an hour, sir.”
“Well, then . . . tell him he’s early,” countered Jackaby, “even worse.”

I really didn’t want to give this book two stars. I had already given Asylum two, so I didn’t want to go down on a two star granting-spree. However the more I read, the more Jackaby felt deserving of that rating. Don’t misunderstand me, the book was not bad, but nothing really happened, I got very bored, the killer was predictable, and although it was a fairly short book it took me a good while to finish it.

Perhaps the most interesting premise of this book is a mix of Sherlock with supernatural elements. We’ve got Jackaby, a strange, thin man with the ability to see behind the glamour of everyday life. He’s a Seer, as he calls himself, someone who sees supernatural creatures and investigates crimes related to them. Abigail is a young woman in search for adventure. After running away from home with her tuition money to go off to an expedition, she sails on a boat to America where she’ll meet the strange Jackaby and find a job as his assistant.

Jackaby was a welcome surprise, he was a strange character much like the original Sherlock himself, but he could be funny when it came to social situations. The character adds dimension to the story, but although I was excited for the supernatural element of these cases, the fantasy world was never quite explained; Jackaby would just give Abigail a weird look whenever she asked something and he would respond with “Of course not! That’s not how it really works” and then just walk away leaving Abigail like,

Instead of adding something to the plot, the supernatural made things confusing and slow.

As for Abigail, I liked her adventurous spirit, and the fact that she didn’t just want to settle into the time’s idea of a “proper young lady” was a nice addition; she wanted something else for herself but without sending her femininity to hell, like so many other heroines do. However, I never felt her being part of this story. It was as if Abigail was kind of… there, narrating what Jackaby did and being a “regular person” for the reader to see Jackaby’s strangeness, but she hardly ever participated in the plot. The only thing she had that didn’t exactly involve Jackaby was a light romance with a young detective, Charlie, but there was no chemistry between them and the second she met him she started blushing for no reason or get all flustered, it was quite insta-love. I wanted to like it, but there was no reason for me to do so.

The ending and resolution of the mystery was a huge letdown. Right at the beginning of the story we get a clue on the killer that immediately makes you think of a certain character, but it’s completely forgotten until the very end when the very obvious connection happens and it becomes a moment of “I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner” that left me banging my head against the wall.

As I said before, this is not a bad book! It has some very interesting moments and a few comic ones too, but I found it to be lacking in suspense, mystery and character development. I’ll try the next book and see how it goes!

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