Review Blog

Jun 02 2015

Jackaby by William Ritter

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Algonquin, 2014. ISBN 9781616203535
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Mystery. Paranormal. Historical. YALSA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. Abigail Rook arrives in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892; and answers a strange help-wanted ad that warns 'Do not stare at the frog.' She begins to work as assistant to R.F. Jackaby, who has the ability 'to see truth where others see the illusion - and there are many illusions.' He investigates the unexplained and the unusual and Abigail finds herself in the middle of chasing down a serial killer. The police don't believe Jackaby when he is convinced that a non-human is the murderer and it is up to the pair with the help of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane to find out what is going on.
This book has lots going for it. Written in the first person by Abigail the prose is descriptive, intelligent and often brimming with humour and wit, which makes it a delight to read. The setting of the late 1800's is fascinating and Ritter seamlessly takes the reader on a journey through the streets, police stations and old homes of the time.
All the characters are complex and multi-layered. Abigail is clever and determined to have the grand adventure that has been denied to her by her parents back in England. Her open minded approach to the strange occupants (including a ghost) of Jackaby's house and her observant nature of the commonplace make her an ideal companion for the strange but charismatic Jackaby. The investigations of the chief police detective Marlowe and the obnoxious Commission Swift, as well as Charlie Cane, are a perfect foil for the way that Jackaby hunts down clues.
The humour in this mystery makes it a worthwhile read, while those who loved the City of Orphans series by Catherine Jinks and Lockwood & Co. books by Jonathan Stroud, as well as the Sherlock Holmes TV series, will be in for a real treat.
Pat Pledger

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